Self-regulation with credibility only option for checking TV ratings: Mitra Committee

NEW DELHI: Even as self-regulation is the best way forward for the broadcasting industry, this should be of a credible nature which continuously provides improvement in the quality and methodology of the rating procedure to provide accurate and up to date findings.

A Committee established by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to study the rating system in the broadcasting industry has, however, expressed “the fear that in case significant progress is not made within defined timelines, the Government may be left with no option but to step in, primarily because of the nature of public concerns that have been raised and debated across many platforms.”

The Committee has in this connection referred to judicial concerns, anxieties raised by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in its report, the report of the Standing Committee of Parliament, perspectives of the industry and civil society.

At the same time, it says “it is our emphatic preference that all the stakeholders collectively create institutions and corrective mechanisms to improve the accuracy to television audience measurement. The media as a key pillar of democracy must remain independent and free.”

The report of the Committee is to be submitted to Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni by Committee Chairman Dr Amit Mitra, Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), and other members on 10 January.

The 75-page report has been prepared by the eight-member Committee which also comprised Rajiv Mehrotra from the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, eminent journalist Neerja Chowhury, Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) Director Professor S K Barua, retired Secretary to the Government D S Mathur, and Professor Ashis Sen Gupta of the Indian Statistical Institute of Kolkata, apart from I&B Ministry Joint Secretary (Broadcasting) Arvind Kumar. He took the place in August 2010 after his appointment, from his predecessor Joint Secretary (Films) D P Reddy who had been holding additional charge of the Broadcasting portfolio when the Committee was set up in May 2010.

Noting that the present sample size of both Tam (8150 homes) and a-MAP (6000) was very inadequate for a country of India’s size with 129 million TV households, the Committee suggested an increase to 15,000 urban and rural TV households in the next two years and then to 30,000 in three years. The rating system should keep pace with the new emerging technologies, and the recommendations of Trai about mobile peoplemeters and so on should be studied, the TRP Committee said.

It also said to avoid conflict of interest, there should be no cross-holding between the rating agencies, broadcasters, or advertising agencies. Furthermore, the frequency of the TRP reports should be weekly, and the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) which has been formed by broadcasters, advertisers and advertising councils should have the discretion to change this to fortnightly if it so desires.

BARC should have representation from broadcasters, advertisers, and advertising agencies and have a 12-member Board constituting seven members from broadcasters (six private and one public service broadcaster), three members from advertisers, and two from advertising agencies including one from the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity of the I&B Ministry.

The BARC should be guided by a high-powered committee of a broad- based nature consisting of 12 members including a statistician of national repute from among the top institutions such as the Indian Statistical Institute, National Council of Applied Economic Research, Measurement technology expert, a renowned individual from civil society or judiciary, a demographer, a sociologist, an economist, a business management expert from one of the IIMs, nominee of an eminent institution/individual engaged in media research, a leading woman of national stature, and three special invitees from BARC to guide and supervise the various processes.

The primary intent was to broaden the participation of different types of experts including eminent members from civil society who would guide BARC to ensure greater accuracy, total transparency and appropriate representation of viewer stratification and diversity.

To break the duopoly of Tam and aMAP in the TRP metering market, BARC must invite more players to come into the field and call for competitive tendering for best pricing without compromising on quality.

The High Powered Committee will also provide the key eligibility norms for selecting the agencies.

The agencies should be engaged through an open, transparent and competitive bidding process. BARC should have a complaint redressal mechanism in place to handle complaints, shortcomings, and deficiencies in a time-bound manner.

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