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TV ratings in India set to undergo transformation as govt approves TRAI guidelines

NEW DELHI: The Indian television audience measurement landscape is set to undergo a major transformation, with the Union Cabinet approving the recommendations put forward by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The overhaul of the system will mean that no television rating agency can have an ownership structure where there is a conflict of interest. They will have to have multiple owners, as under the guidelines no company will be allowed to hold more than 10% equity in a TV rating agency as well as in a broadcasting, advertising or an ad agency venture.

Manish TewariThe wholesale reform will also include a minimum panel size of 20,000 homes within six months of the guidelines coming into force and a scale up of 10,000 every year till it reaches 50,000 homes. One-fourth of the panel homes will have to be rotated every year.

“The present TV rating system used a sample size of around 10,000 which is not adequate to represent the population of 15.4 crore (154 million) TV households in India. It also does not satisfactorily cover the entire demographic profile of the country, for eg rural India, states like J&K and the North East,” said the cabinet note.

Under the new guidelines, the government and TRAI reserve the right to audit the systems, procedures and mechanisms of the TV rating agency.

“The guidelines for TV rating agencies are designed to address aberrations in the existing television rating system. These guidelines are aimed at making television ratings transparent, credible and accountable,” Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said while talking to reporters after the cabinet meeting.

The regulatory framework for television rating agencies also covers detailed procedures for registration, eligibility norms, terms and conditions of registration, cross-holdings, methodology for audience measurement, a complaint redressal mechanism, sale and use of ratings, disclosure, reporting requirements and action on non-compliance of guidelines.

With the cabinet giving its go-ahead on Thursday, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) will have to notify the guidelines.

The guidelines will come into effect immediately from the date of notification. The existing rating agencies will have to comply with the guidelines within 30 days from the date of notification.

The TV audience measurement market has so far been the sole preserve of TAM Media Research for more than a decade in absence of any credible competition. Now that is about to change, with the TV rating agency guidelines set to come into force and the industry-backed audience measurement body Broadcasters Audience Research Council (BARC) taking shape after years of delay.

A TAM Media Research spokesperson did not want to comment on the new guidelines for TV rating agencies. TAM is a joint venture between Nielsen India and Kantar Market Research, which is owned by media and advertising behemoth WPP.

Other salient features of the guidelines

All rating agencies, including the existing ones, will now have to obtain registration from the MIB.

The ratings will have to be technology neutral and should capture data across multiple viewing platforms such as cable TV, direct-to-home (DTH), and terrestrial TV.

Panel homes for audience measurement will have to be drawn from the pool of households selected through an establishment survey. Secrecy and privacy of the panel homes must be maintained with 25% of panel homes to be rotated every year.

The rating agency will have to submit the detailed methodology to the government and also publish it on its website. The rating agency will also have to set up an effective complaint redressal system with a toll-free number.

The rating agency will have to set up an internal audit mechanism to get its entire methodology/processes audited internally on quarterly basis and through an independent auditor annually. All audit reports need to be put on the website of the rating agency.

Non-compliance of guidelines on cross-holding, methodology, secrecy, privacy, audit, public disclosure and reporting requirements will lead to forfeiture of two bank guarantees worth Rs 10 million, which is to be furnished by the company in the first instance, and will lead to cancellation of registration in the second instance.

For violation of other provisions of the guidelines, the penalty will be forfeiture of bank guarantee of Rs 2.5 million for the first instance of non-compliance, forfeiture of bank guarantee of Rs. 7.5 million for the second instance of non-compliance and for the third instance, cancellation of registration.

The guidelines are based on recommendations made by TRAI on ‘Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies’ dated 11 September 2013.

Also Read:

Cabinet approves TRAI’s TV rating agency guidelines

TRAI’s TV rating agency guidelines get I&B ministry nod

TRAI steps in to create regulatory framework for TV ratings

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