Cabinet set to deliberate on TV ratings guidelines

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI's) recommendations are seeing movement to enable them to serve as the gold standard for television ratings. Currently with the law ministry, the file relating to TV rating guidelines is expected to be presented to the Cabinet very soon.

The TRAI had come up with its own analysis and recommendations around how TV ratings should be done in India following  discussions with the various stakeholders in September 2013; with the Union Cabinet expected to deliberate and give it sanction soon it could well be en route to become law.

 “The recommendations are fair and are neither pro nor against any measuring body. However, it is very clear that it will be passed by the cabinet,” says the highly placed source from the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF).

As reported by in September, the regulatory body had sent out the recommendations on what should serve as guidelines to put in place a transparent, credible and reliable television ratings process in the country.  

Amongst the recommendations is that any agency wanting to offer TV viewership monitoring or rating services has to perforce get itself registered with the ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) if it fulfills the following guidelines: "The rating agency shall be set up and registered as a company under the Companies Act, 1956; any member of the board of directors of the television rating agency should not be in the business of broadcasting/ advertising/advertising agency; the rating agency should have a minimum net worth of Rs 20 crore; the rating agency should also meet the prescribed cross-holdings requirements."

TRAI had also stated that to keep the ratings process credible, there should be a minimum of 20,000 panel homes which have to be set up within six months of the guidelines being implemented. Thereafter the number of panel homes has to be increased by 10,000 every year until it reaches 50,000.

To meet and fulfill the last criteria, TAM, the current measuring body, will have to invest a large sum of moolah ( Rs 100 crore plus) every year. This could well be a major challenge for it, if sources are to be believed. For the Indian broadcast industry, has pretty much been chary of funding any of its expansion plans, in the past.

“Its very existence will be under tremendous threat over the next year or so," says a media observer. "If it manages to raise the money despite all the cross media equity holding restrictions, then it should be all right. But it will have to contend with BARC which will be getting the industry's support and should start by mid to late next year.  I would not like to be in TAM's shoes."

However, the source adds that most stakeholders involved in it hope that TAM will be able to participate in the working of BARC as well.

Another industry source comments, “We don’t care about what happens to TAM. The industry has opted for a new measuring system, then why should we think about TAM’s fate?”

Watever be the case, one thing is clear BARC is no more suffering teething problems and will sooner than later  bring about a paradigm shift in the audience measuring game in India. And as far as TAM goes, it needs come up to scratch and follow the TRAI guidelines.

The ratings race may have only just begun.

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