TRAI starts exercise on separate regulatory body for rating radio listenership; comments deadline 11 April

New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India wants to know if there is a need to regulate the radio audience measurement and rating services and whether this should be done by the regulator/government or self-regulatory bodies.

In a consultation paper issued today on ‘Issues related to Radio Audience Measurement and Ratings in India’, TRAI has also suggested some broad contours for an industry led body proposed to be formed for regulating the radio rating system and sought views of stakeholders on these.

It has said that written comments on the consultation paper should be sent by 11 April and counter-comments, if any, may be submitted by 25 April.

The paper also suggests some eligibility conditions for rating agencies and guidelines for methodology for audience measurement and wants views on these.

At the outset, TRAI notes that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued guidelines for television rating agencies and an industry body Broadcasting Audience Research Council (BARC) has been entrusted with the task of conducting TV audience measurement.

Similarly for the radio broadcasting sector, Radio Audience Measurement (RAM), which is an indicator of the number of listeners to a radio channels, has become essential.

At present, radio audience measurement in India is conducted by AIR and TAM Media Research. AIR carries out periodical large scale radio audience surveys on various AIR channels. TAM Media Research conducts radio audience measurement on private FM radio channels through an independent division, which is a joint service between IMRB International and Nielsen Media Research. It uses the paper diary method to measure radio listenership with a panel size of 480 individuals each in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and listenership data is provided on a weekly basis.

TRAI says the total advertising revenues of the radio broadcasting sector depend on the advertisement duration and the rates per unit time. The duration as well as the advertisements rates depends upon numbers and demographics of the radio listeners. Accordingly, there is a need for radio audience measurement which can measure the popularity of a channel or a programme for the advertisers and advertising agencies. This will assist them in selecting the right channel or programme at the right time to reach the target listeners. Further, it will also aid the radio channels in improving their programmes (both quality of the programme and content variety) for attracting more listeners.

The task of allocating resources for advertisements by advertisers and advertising agencies has become increasingly challenging with the growth in the number of FM radio channels and vastly increased variety of programs available. Advertising expenditures are typically guided by audience measurement in addition to other factors such as cost of reaching various audience segments, advertisement placements and programme schedules.

Advertisement revenues of the radio broadcasting sector are directly linked to listenership of radio channels. In case of newspapers and other print media, audience measurement is based on the number of copies sold. This physical count is however not possible in the case of radio and television sectors, wherein a different form of audience measurement is necessitated. 

The Regulator has said that a few stakeholders, especially the FM radio operators have voiced concerns about the inadequate coverage and panel size of the radio audience measurement conducted by TAM Media Research. They have expressed reservations about the paper diary methodology used for such measurement. In fact transparency, trust, credibility and acceptability of the radio audience measurement are the key elements for its success.  Better radio audience measurement and ratings would end up promoting a radio channel while poor radio ratings will make it relatively less popular amongst advertisers. Incorrect radio ratings may lead to encouraging production of content which may not be really popular while good content and programs may be adversely impacted on account of misplaced ratings. False and misplaced radio ratings, therefore, can not only end up affecting broadcasters and advertisers, but also adversely impact the quality of the programs being produced and aired to the public. Therefore, there is a need to create a regulatory framework which enables accurate measurements that correctly represent the appropriate ratings for radio channels.  

TRAI said the consultation paper had been issued to prescribe a framework for radio rating system in India that is conducive to growth, forward looking, and addresses the concerns of the stakeholders while protecting the interests of the consumers. The main objectives of the consultation paper are to ensure growth of the radio broadcasting sector; ensure transparency in radio audience measurement and ratings; ensure greater diversity and better quality content.

TRAI  also wants to know the views of stakeholders on the rating agency panel size (in terms of numbers of individuals) for different categories of cities that may be mandated in order to ensure statistical accuracy and adequate coverage representing various genres, regions, demographics etc. for a robust radio rating system.

It has asked if the desired panel size can be achieved immediately, and also if it has to be done in a phased manner, what the minimum initial panel size, quantum of increase and periodicity of such an increase in the panel size should be for different categories of cities.

It has sought views on what should the rollout framework for introducing radio rating system across all the cities for FM services be and should all cities be covered in a phased manner.

Stakeholders have been asked to give suggestions/ views as to how the confidentiality of individuals/households included in the panel can be ensured.

Comments have also been sought on the complaint redressal mechanism for which a suggestion has been made in the paper.

It wants to know if the rate card for sale and use of ratings data should be published in the public domain by the rating agencies.

Comments have also been sought on the cross holding restrictions for rating agencies as discussed in the paper.  

TRAI wants to know views on the parameters/procedures suggested in the paper pertaining to mandatory disclosures for ensuring transparency and compliance of the prescribed accreditation guidelines by rating agencies. Similarly it has sought views on the parameters/procedures suggested pertaining to reporting requirements for ensuring effective monitoring and compliance of the prescribed accreditation guidelines by rating agencies.

Comments have been sought on the audit requirements for rating agencies and who should be eligible to audit the rating process/system.  What regulatory initiatives are required to promote competition in radio rating services, TRAI wants to know.

In case guidelines/ rules for rating agency are laid down in the country, the regulator wants to know how much time should be given for complying with the prescribed rules to existing entities in the radio rating services which may not be in compliance with the guidelines.

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