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I&B calls AAAI, ISA for meet on 4 Sept over TV ratings issue

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NEW DELHI: The pressure on TAM Media Research, India‘s sole television ratings provider, is just not easing. The Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has decided to act in response to the NDTV lawsuit against the corrupt television ratings and the demand by News Broadcasters Association (NBA) for its intervention.

After reportedly asking television ratings provider TAM Media Research and its 50 per cent owner Nielsen to submit a report on the status of the plans to make the ratings system robust, the ministry has convened a meeting with the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) on Tuesday, 4 September.

The meeting with AAAI and ISA is being held amid raging controversy over the credibility of television viewership ratings, after NDTV (New Delhi Television Ltd) filed a lawsuit in New York against TAM, its owners Nielsen and WPP and their officials.

The meeting is also happening in the backdrop of a delay in operationalising the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), which is to be jointly set up by Indian Broadcasting Foundation, AAAI and ISA.

Sources close to the I&B ministry have confirmed to Indiantelevision.com that the meeting has been scheduled on Tuesday.

According to a media report, the government has given to TAM 10 days and Nielsen two weeks to reply. The report said the government has also sought information from TAM and Nielsen on generation of viewership data from towns with less than 1 lakh of population and from north-east states and Jammu & Kashmir.

"This has gone too far," said the CEO of a media agency, suggesting that the meeting is a fallout of the war of words between WPP and NDTV.

Leo Burnett chairman of India Subcontinent Arvind Sharma declined to talk on the meeting but referring to the media report said, "I can‘t blame the government for being concerned over what all is happening in media. The long term solution is that via the three players - AAAI, ISA and IBF - creation of BARC should be speeded up. One has to understand that there has to be a reliable, transparent medium. What government wants is similar to what we want and there isn‘t any contradiction."

Sharma said TAM has been giving AAAI and ISA progress reports since their meeting on 16 August. During the meeting, TAM had outlined a six-point action plan that included appointment of a security officer and a security agency, expansion in the number of homes with peoplemeters in the six top metros, an industry review of the viewership research processes, independent audit of outlier homes, faster rotation of the peoplemeter homes and setting up of an internal audit team.

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com, Star India CEO Uday Shankar said: "I am glad that I&B Ministry has asked TAM to explain but how do we know that how many boxes are functional? There is no system of public audit. How do we know that the data which is collected has no uncertainty in that?"

Shankar further said, "TAM is clouded in secrecy and according to me anything that isn‘t transparent and is under secrecy is subject to distortion and corruption."

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