The government is set to play an active role in the functioning of television ratings agencies if the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on television rating points (TRPs) are accepted.
Trai’s final recommendations on TRPs, released today, back an industry-led TV ratings agency called the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to end the domination of private ratings agencies like Television Audience Measurement (TAM) and aMap.
TRPs are the measure of the success of TV channels or shows and tend to influence the flow of advertising spends worth about Rs 8,000 crore.
Trai said BARC — a joint body of broadcasters and advertisers — should start work by January 2009. BARC has been set up by the apex broadcasters’ body, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the Advertising Agency Association of India (AAAI) and the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) under Section 25 of the Companies Act as a not-for-profit body.
According to Trai, BARC has to start its activities by January 2009. “BARC will have two nominees from the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry as well as government nominees on its technical committee. It will have to provide information and reports to the government when asked for,” Trai said.
BARC cannot undertake audience measurement directly and will have to resort to transparency for various stages of the bidding process, Trai said.
There will be complete cross-media ownership restrictions on BARC or its executives. As a result, no advertisers or broadcasters will be able to hold any stake in the ratings agency or any director or promoter of a ratings agency can have a stake in BARC, the regulator said.
However, the IBF, the AAI, and several private channels have been opposed to any government intervention in the ratings business.
On sample size, Trai has made it clear that BARC or its appointed rating agencies will have to take their samples from different platforms, including terrestrial homes, Prasar Bharati channels, cable and satellite platforms, rural and urban areas and all the states.
Currently, the sample sizes of both TAM and aMap do not cover all the states.
Welcoming the move, aMap CEO Amit Varma said: “It is the right step in the right direction. Once BARC is constituted, we will also bid for the business. However, it will be difficult for BARC to initiate its work by January 2009.”
Even TAM, the 10-year old ratings agency, said the government should not intervene in an industry-created TV ratings system.
“Instead, the government should help the industry by relaxing the Customs duty on peoplemeter— a device that captures the number of viewers — and enforce strict laws to ensure and govern confidentiality of the panel homes (homes in which the peoplemeters are installed).