NEWS11 January 2011

Committee calls on Indian TV industry to fund bigger ratings samples

Asia Pacific Government

INDIA— A government-commissioned review of television ratings in India has called for broadcasters, advertisers and ad agencies to fund an expansion of audience measurement panels, calling the size of existing ones “grossly inadequate”.

The two main ratings providers, TAM Media Research and aMap, use samples of 8,000 and 6,000 homes respectively, but a committee led by the secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry has called for a five-year plan to increase panel sizes to 30,000 homes.

The committee argues that 30,000 homes would be a more reliable base from which to measure India’s 129m TV households. Indeed, the figure is in line with the 25,000 homes used to measure what 115m American TV households are watching.

Crucially, the committee said the expanded panels need to be representative of urban areas as well as the rural and smaller towns which currently go unmeasured. It was this lack of representation that kickstarted the government’s review of television ratings more than two years ago.

The committee has costed its sample expansion demands at 6.6bn rupees ($143m), with half attributed to the purchase of additional people meters and the other half tied to operational costs like baseline surveys, meter servicing, data downloading and processing.

It says this figure represents just 0.32% of the total TV industry size, thus “this level of expenditure should not be very difficult for the industry to meet”. It suggests the money should be collected as dues paid to the nascent Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc), which is modelled after the UK’s Broadcast Audience Research Board (Barb) and will be responsible for commissioning and overseeing an industry-funded TV ratings system.

The committee has made clear its preference for industry self-regulation of TV ratings and has not repeated recommendations made previously by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that Barc should feature representatives of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting on its board as non-voting members. Instead it says the board should consist solely of broadcasters, advertisers and ad agencies, although one of the two ad agency members would be a representative of the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity, which is a service agency of the government (akin to the UK’s Central Office of Information).

The committee agrees with TRAI that “there should not be any crossholding [of shares] between rating agencies, broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies” to avoid conflicts of interest. Again this raises questions for TAM Media Research, which is a joint venture between Nielsen and Kantar Media – the latter owned by WPP, which owns numerous ad agencies. The company, though, appears unperturbed, putting out a statement saying: “The directions and way forward suggested by the [committee report] will only take the Indian media industry to a newer trajectory of growth.”

Perhaps of most concern to advertisers and broadcasters will be the committee’s recommendation that the release of ratings data should be weekly “to prevent constant tweaking of content, especially in the news channels”. It says it is up to the discretion of Barc “to reduce the periodicity further to a fortnight”.

The full 75-page report is online here.