On 11 September Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released its recommendations of Guideline for Television Rating Agencies.
On the request of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting TRAI gave its recommendation on issue related to guidelines/accreditation mechanism for accreditation of TRP rating agencies in India. Ministry's request also stated that in case the accreditation mechanism fails to address the maladies of the current system then there would be a need for entrusting the accreditation mechanism to TRAI under section 11(1) (d).
The issue arose because the existing system of TRP measurement came under fire fr0m all quarters. TAM the only rating agency in India owned by A C Nielson and Kantar Media has been blamed for monopolistic ways apart fr0m not having adequate peoplemeters to measure the viewership of TV channels all across India. There are only 8000 TAM homes that decide the viewership of more than 800 channels in 160 million TV households in the country.
NDTV had taken TAM to court in New York for mismanaged and manipulated TRP ratings. Prasar Bharti has also complained to Competition Commission against TAM for not catering to all Doordarshan market, particularly in the semi-urban and rural areas where DD has the maximum reach.
In the process of self regulation, the government had asked the industry, particularly Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) to make their own body to oversee the functioning of rating agencies or to have their own system of measurement in place. Thus Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) was formed in 2008 as a non-profit organization. However, till date BARC has failed to create a viable, trusted television rating system and because of the continuing complaints fr0m stake holders, Government has decided to let more rating agencies function in India in a regulated manner.
TRAI gave its recommendations after due consultation with all stakeholders and an Open House Discussions as per the norm. The salient features of the recommendations are:
The Authority supports self-regulations of television ratings through an industry-led body like Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).
Any agency meeting the eligibility conditions can apply and get registered with MIB for doing the rating work.
MIB to notify the guidelines for regulation the television rating agencies based on TRAI's recommendations, within two months.
Guidelines to cover registration, eligibility norms, cross-holding, methodology, complaint redressal, sale & use of ratings, audit, disclosure, reporting requirements and penal provisions.
The number of panel homes for collecting television viewership data will be a minimum of 20,000; to be set up within 6 months of the guidelines coming into force. Thereafter, the number of panel homes shall be increased by 10,000 every year until Panel Size reaches 50,000.
The panel homes to be selected fr0m a pool of households, selected through an establishment survey which shall be at least 10 times the number of panel homes for audience measurement.
The rating agency to get its entire methodology/ processes audited internally on quarterly basis and through an independent auditor annually. All audit reports to be put on the website of the rating agency.
Penal provisions for non-compliance of guidelines including financial penalty fr0m Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 1 crore and cancellation of registration.
Six months time given to the existing rating agency to comply with the guidelines.
Since 2008' the TRAI has been giving its recommendations /clarifications on implementing a reliable and transparent television rating system. For over four years little to no progress has been made by the industry and the Ministry, in implementing the Authority's recommendations aimed at institutionalizing a credible and transparent rating system.
TRAI has lamented that policy intent has not been translated into action for too long. The time frame for implementation has now become a critical factor as technologies as well as ground realities change very fast. Guidelines are designed to correct the aberrations in the existing system and prevent it fr0m deteriorating further. Early implementation of guidelines, therefore, has become a necessity. It has categorically expressed that it cannot be a mute spectator to continued inaction and may suo moto intervene in larger public interest.