TAM proposals fail to enthuse broadcasters

MUMBAI/New Delhi: Broadcasters have found nothing new in the six-point action plan proposed by TAM Media Research, saying there is no definite offer on plate except promises and fall far short of measures that are needed to address the ills plaguing the
 ‘monopoly‘ audience measurement system.

Times Television Network MD & CEO Sunil Lulla has said the TAM action plan lacks "anything concrete". "I am happy about the factthat TAM has at least admitted to failures in its ratings system," he sarcastically pointed out.

The CEO of another broadcaster, who did not want to be named, said the proposed action plan of TAM would not solve any of the problems as there is no provision to increase reach to the most parts of the country. "Why has TAM suddenly woken up to its deficiencies," the broadcaster asked and felt the meeting TAM had with advertisers was clearly prompted by the audience research body to save itself.

The six steps outlined by TAM include appointment of a security officer and a security agency, expansion in the number of peoplemeters in six top metros, an industry review of the research processes, independent audit of outlier homes, faster rotation of the peoplemeter homes and setting up of an internal audit team.

Doordarshan Director General Tripurari Sharan said the TAM proposals are ridiculous as there is nothing mentioned about expanding the geographical coverage of the ratings measurement system. "It is astonishing that DD unquestionably had the largest reach in the country and yet did not figure in the TAM ratings."

The pubcaster has viewers in large numbers in small towns and villages, which are not covered by TAM ratings.

Sharan said in his home state of Bihar, the cities and towns covered by TAM does not even touch double figures.

Times Television‘s Lulla said, "There is nothing new that has been done and I don‘t know why there is so much euphoria about it. For broadcasters who have always been complaining about TAM‘s auditing, process and security, it‘s really disappointing."

A senior official with another broadcaster said the TAM proposals were a clear indication that TAM was concerned about the pressures building up against it from all sides after NDTV filed a lawsuit New York alleging that the subsidiary of Nielsen and Kantar were knowingly releasing fraudulent and misleading television viewership ratings. The government‘s threat of investigating TAM‘s functioning added to the pressure.

Broadcasters said it was important for the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to work in tandem to ensure that the proposed Broadcasters Audience Research Council (BARC) commences its work.

"The immediate step should be the quick and rapid roll out of BARC which would be an interfacing body between the industry and TAM," Lulla remarked.

AAAI & ISA come out with joint statement but some media agencies not excited

The response from the advertising and media agencies has been mixed, with some of them pointing out that "there is nothing new in TAM‘s promised action plan", while others have said that "there has been at least some forward movement by making TAM officially outline its immediate agenda."

Said Havas Media India & South Asia CEO Anita Nayyar, "These (TAM proposals) are not concrete steps and there is a lack of transparency. They seem to have merely outlined some action without specifying the details."

Nayyar feels that the announcement by AAAI and ISA is nothing but a ploy to pacify disgruntled broadcasters who are keen to pursue Barc, in which IBF, AAAI and ISA are stakeholders.

"It could be seen as a ploy to pacify people who are complaining against TAM. These suggestions are nothing new and were submitted to TAM time and again in the past. Now they have just acknowledged and finally agreed to work on them," Nayyar pointed out.

AAAI president Arvind Sharma, who along with Indian Society of Advertisers Chairman Bharat Patel announced the action points in a
statement after a meeting with TAM, was confident that the steps promised by TAM would be implemented.

Sharma said the purpose of the meeting with TAM was to find ways and solutions to improve the reliability of data in the current design. The meeting restricted the discussions to the expansion of peoplemeters in the top six metros.

"You see, the idea was to focus on how the current system can be improved. The sample size, coverage, representation and other issues will be addressed once BARC‘s new measurement system is in place," he pointed out.

He was also hopeful that BARC would be rolled out in the next few weeks, but did not give details. He said IBF, AAAI and ISA will soon set the dates for the next meeting to set in motion the process of setting up BARC.

Zenith Optimedia CEO India Satyajit Sen has welcomed the move by TAM. He said, "I think it is the best and optimum step ahead that TAM has taken. It is at least saying that TAM is willing to take steps. I presume they intend to implement these things with immediate effect. I believe that the decision to expand the sample size in the top six metros has been taken to accommodate digitisation and that the expansion should take place by January 2013."

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