Trai seeks industry's views on TV ratings system

MUMBAI: In an effort to create a reliable television rating system, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today issued a paper to deal with issues of establishing an accreditation mechanism for the rating agency and methodology of audience measurement.

The consultation paper titled "Guidelines/Accreditation Mechanism for Television Rating Agencies in India" also seeks to get the views of stakeholders on sample size, secrecy of sample homes, cross holding between rating agencies and their users, complaint redressal, sale and use of ratings, disclosure and reporting requirement, competition in rating services, and audit.

The consultation paper aims to lay down comprehensive guidelines/accreditation mechanism for TRP (television rating points) rating agencies in India to ensure transparency and accountability in the rating system. Written comments have been invited by 9 May with any cross-comments by 16 May.

The Consultation paper has been issued at the behest of the Information & Broadcasting ministry, which had earlier received a report from the Amit Mitra Committee on the matter.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has since been working with the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) to set up the Broadcasting Audience Rating Council (BARC) as an alternative to TAM.

"Incorrect ratings will lead to production of content which may not be really popular while good content and programmes may be left out. Therefore, there is a need to have an accurate measurement and representative television ratings for the programmes," the Trai says.

Seeking to ensure "fair competition, better standard and quality of services", the government had asked the Trai to draft recommendations on comprehensive guidelines and accreditation mechanism for agencies involved in measuring television rating points.

The consultation paper also outlines suggestions on the eligibility criteria for ratings agencies. Some of the suggested criteria include -

a. The rating agency should be set up and registered as a company under the Companies Act, 1956.

b. The Rating Agency should have, in its Memorandum of Association, specified rating activity as one of its main objects.

c. The rating agency should have a minimum net worth (say rupees five crore).

d. The rating agency should have professional competence, financial soundness and general reputation of fairness and integrity in business transactions, to the satisfaction of the Government;

e. Rating agency should meet the prescribed cross holding requirements.

Another key area that the consultation paper touches upon is the issue of cross holding between a ratings agency and its user. It has asked stakeholders to comment/suggest on the guidelines of cross holding of ratings agency which may include:

a. There should be no cross holding between the rating agencies and broadcasters, advertisers, media agencies and advertising agencies.

b. This cross-holding restriction should also be applicable in respect of individual promoters besides being applicable to legal entities.

c. No single company/ legal person, either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings, shall have substantial equity holding in more than one rating agency. Similarly no single company/ legal person, either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings, shall have substantial equity in both rating agencies and broadcasters/advertisers/ media agencies/advertising agencies. Substantial equity could be defined as certain percentage (say 10% or more) of paid equity

d. A promoter company/ legal person/ directors of the rating agency cannot have stakes in any broadcaster, advertiser and advertising agency either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings.

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