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I&B secretary calls for creating indigenous TV ratings system

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MUMBAI: Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Secretary Uday Kumar Varma has called for development of an indigenous television ratings system for the India broadcasting sector.

During the keynote speech at BES Expo in New Delhi, Varma said the current ratings system lacks accuracy and is inadequate for a huge country like India.

TAM Media Research, a joint-venture between Nielsen and Kantar Media, is India‘s sole TV audience measurement agency. It has been under fire from broadcasters who have called for a more corrective, accurate and transparent ratings system under the aegis of Broadcasters Audience Research Council (Barc).

“Why is it that we have to import a system which each one of us know is far from accurate and perfect,” Varma told the gathering at BES Expo in the presence of I&B minister Manish Tewari and National Knowledge Commission chairman Sam Pitroda.

Varma added, “I do know that since it is not a direct concern of the government we are not paying attention to this but it is time that we pay attention to this particular dimension -- why is it that in a country like ours with a population of billion plus, we are not able to develop our own indigenous and unique system of TV viewing system.”

Varma is having the support of Multi Screen Media CEO and Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) president Man Jit Singh. Speaking to Indiantelevision.com, Singh expressed concurrence with Varma’s views of the need to have an indigenous ratings system.

“I agree with Mr Varma’s observation that we should have an indigenous ratings system. In fact, Barc is an indigenous ratings system. The sampling, equipments, and technology will be indigenous. The measurement meters can be sourced from any country,” says Singh.

It is pertinent to note here that Broadcasters Audience Research Council (Barc), a joint venture of IBF, Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), and Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA), has started the process of creating a new measurement system. It issued a global Request for Information (RFI) on state-of-the-art ratings systems last month and would be following it up with a Request for Proposal.

Making a case for government intervention in TV viewership measurement, Varma said TRP impacts the government since it has a presence in television broadcasting through public broadcaster Doordarshan which is not getting a fair deal from the existing set-up.

“Ordinarily, the government should not be concerned about it (TV viewership measurement) because it is a service for which there is a demand and there is somebody who is supplying it,” he said.

“So if the broadcasting was only in the private sector, we need not be worried except on the ground of public interest. If TRP becomes a reason for deterioration of content I think there is a legitimate ground for the government to intervene.”

He also said that government intervention becomes inevitable if the ratings system becomes a cause for degradation in content that comes on television.

“In this case we not only have this ground but also the fact that we have a substantial public broadcaster who may not be getting a fair deal from the existing measurement system of television viewing It is certainly a concern where the government has to intervene,” Varma averred.

Varma also wondered how 8,000 homes can capture viewership trends for a country of the size of India with a billion plus population and close to 150 million television homes.

“The issue is that how is it that the whole measurement system is being created by just a set of 8,000 or 9,000 peoplemeters. As a lay man, I am quite concerned about it. Is this really the only possible technology to measure the TV viewing of the people?” he questioned.

Varma said the issue of TV viewership measurement requires urgent attention and it was imperative to look for alternative.

“I really do not know whether there have been any discussions on this count anywhere but this extremely important issue needs our attention. Is peoplemeters the instrument to measure TV viewing or are there alternatives available.”

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