With the hearing in the Kantar Media case scheduled in the Delhi High Court on January 29, 2014, the broadcast industry is keenly observing what the Court’s decision will be.
Two industry bodies – Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) – are supporting the parent company of TAM Media. Though the third and an important stakeholder from the broadcasting community, the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF), is not supporting Kantar openly, broadcasters have been vocal against a ratings blackout in the contemporary scenario.
As is known, the Union Cabinet had recently given its approval to the ratings agency guidelines. The clause that has bothered Kantar the most is the one that states, “No single company, directly or through its associates, is allowed to hold more than 10 per cent paid up equity in a rating agency if it also holds a stake in a broadcaster, advertiser or advertising agency”. Kantar holds 50 per cent stake in TAM. Senior sources in the advertising, marketing and broadcasting community are optimistic about Kantar getting a stay from the Court as there is no other alternative available in the industry currently, with the industry-led body BARC expected to become operational only by October 2014.
Kantar to get a stay
Most of the industry people believe that things will work normally for the industry as they have till now. “Kantar should get a stay for about six more months. This is possible because the industry dynamics won’t support a ratings blackout. That would be injurious to all. Government guidelines are not to disrupt the industry. Citing the industry dynamics, TAM should stay for few more months,” commented a senior broadcaster in the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) on condition of anonymity.
The other side
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has already expressed its inability in postponing the deadline for implementation of the guidelines. In case Kantar does not get a stay from the Delhi High Court and the company is asked to dilute its stake within the next 16 days, which according to sources is not possible for Kantar, various other possibilities can evolve according to observers.
In such a scenario, experts believe that TAM would function as an individual agency and not as a ratings agency and would keep supplying ratings individually as demanded by stakeholders. Therefore, formal release of ratings to the entire fraternity would not happen, as officially there would be no currency provider. This would also hamper the broadcasting community as marketers would be speculative over investments on TV for certain genres, especially genres such as GECs, which command a huge reach base.
Secondly, Kantar would need a partner to sell its stake within a few days. Observers speculate that BARC could be buying the stake, but nothing has been confirmed.
The writ petition filed by Kantar on January 20, 2014 stated that the new guidelines have put the existence of TAM at risk, even though the ratings agency has operated in the country for over 15 years. The petition further stated that with the new guidelines restricting cross-holding in TV rating agencies, TAM would have to shut shop in the country.
Various people that exchange4media spoke to have questioned the timing of the developments. TAM published advertisements in leading dailies on January 20, which interestingly was the date when BARC announced its technology partner. Some people are also questioning MIB’s timing over the ratings agency guidelines just before the Lok Sabha elections of 2014.
TAM Media did not respond to our queries at the time of filing this report.