NEW DELHI: There has been some hue and cry about the manner in which the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has apparently rushed to notify the latest policy guidelines for TV ratings. Following the notification, there have been fears that unless TAM goes to court and gets a stay order on the MIB’s guidelines, industry will most likely be without TV ratings for at least six to seven months. This is because Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) states that it will be ready to roll out its ratings only in the third or fourth quarter of 2014.
This has alarmed professionals such as Madison chairman Sam Balsara who has gone on record to state that the industry should plead with the Ministry to delay the implementation of the guidelines, and that the industry cannot do with a TV ratings-dark period.
MIB officials are pretty clear that this time it is for real. Says a senior Ministry official: “The entire TV ratings shouting match has been going on since 2007. Industry has been complaining that TAM’s methodology is flawed, and they have done nothing about it over the years. And the murmurings against it have been going on for more than a decade.”
He goes on to add, that MIB intervened only on the industry’s insistence and now the industry will have to drink its bitter dose of medicine, no matter what.
“We have given the industry and TAM enough time to rectify the situation and find an amicable authentic and reliable solution,” says another MIB official. “The Amit Mitra committee report indicated what needs to be done way back n 2010. Why wasn’t it followed and why were corrective steps not taken by TAM or the industry? TAM will have to follow the guidelines and register with us before 30 days are up, otherwise cease operating. We are not against individuals or companies; we are clear that a due process and the rules for TV ratings need to be followed so that transparency and credibility are associated with TV viewership ratings.”
In fact, another MIB official was quite critical of the industry-backed TV ratings body BARC too.
“It’s taken them three years to get here,” the senior official says. “First, BARC told us that the ratings will be up and running by June 2013, then they told us they would do so by March 2014, and now they are saying September or October 2014. This is simply not acceptable. We timed our rules and regulations based on the fact that BARC would be up by March 2014 and that industry would not have to be troubled by the absence of ratings.”
Another senior official appeals that the MIB cannot keep waiting forever for industry to get its act together. “The industry has been dragging its heels for a long time on the TV ratings issue. Now is the time for it to sprint to the finish line, and faster than ever before,” he says. The longer it takes to get its ratings going, the longer it will be without ratings.”
The fact that TAM Media might challenge the Ministry’s notification in court has not disturbed the MIB at all. “If it goes to court, we will fight it tooth and nail,” says the MIB official. “Industry has to understand, the MIB means business. Let industry also be serious about its business.”
“It’s strange, isn’t it?” another official asks rhetorically with a smile on his face. “Industry complains when the ratings are there; they are complaining now that the ratings will not be there for some time. Let it realise that indeed there will be no ratings for a while and come up with a workable solution in their absence which works well for broadcasters, advertisers and agencies. The ball is in industry’s court now. ”