The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended a framework and guidelines for television rating agencies in India in a paper released on 11 September.
The guidelines cover registration, eligibility norms, cross-holding, methodology of rating, complaint redressal, sale and use of ratings, audit, disclosure, reporting requirements and penal provisions. TRAI has said these are to be notified by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, preferably within the next two months.
On his India visit this week, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP Group, said the Group has not gone into the details of the latest set of recommendations. Asked about such a framework and government guidelines for TV rating agencies, he said, “It will be a first. No other market (country) has something like this.”
The stated stand of TAM, the JV between Nielsen and Kantar Media Research that runs the only TV measurement system in India currently, is articulated in a response dated 23 May to a TRAI consultation paper on ‘Guidelines/Accreditation Mechanism for Television Audience Measurement (TAM)/ Television Rating Points (TRP) Agencies in India.
It said, “Our experience of working with the Industry user bodies, like JIB or BARC, has always been fruitful, healthy and beneficial. Therefore, we believe by the recommendations stated in the Dr. Amit Mitra committee report that asks the industry body (BARC) to supervise the audience measurement system. It does not see any role for the government to intervene in any form into this industry exercise nor does it foresee any requirement of any form of governmental regulation to oversee a TV Ratings service. The industry bodies are well capable and have been performing a professional task in the past of ensuring that they govern the TV Ratings service as per the needs of its users.”
All rating agencies, henceforth, including the existing rating agency (TAM Media Research), will have to obtain a registration from MIB subject to their meeting the eligibility norms, says the latest TRAI recommendation. MIB will publish the procedure for application and grant of registration.
According to the paper, the rating agency’s MoA should not include any activity like consultancy or any such advisory role, which would lead to a potential conflict of interest with its main objective of rating.
The recommendation further says that any member of the Board of Directors of the television rating company shall not be in the business of broadcasting, advertising, or advertising agency.
A reference paper that TRAI received from MIB (August 2012) highlighted presence of cross-holdings in TAM Media Research (India), the TRAI paper explained.
Having a substantial (10 per cent or more of paid-up equity) holding in companies shall constitute a cross-holding, defines the paper, adding that no single company/ legal entity, either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings, shall have substantial equity holding in both rating agencies and broadcasters/advertisers/ advertising agencies. No single company/legal entity, either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings, shall have substantial equity holding in more than one rating agency operating in the same area, it added. The cross-holdings restriction will also be applicable in respect of individual promoters besides being applicable to legal entities. And a promoter company/ member of the Board of Directors of the rating agency cannot have stakes in any broadcaster/ advertiser/advertising agency either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings, according to the recommendation.
Methodology for audience measurement
TRAI recommends that ratings need to be technology neutral and should capture data across multiple viewing platforms viz. cable TV, DTH, terrestrial TV etc.; with online platforms covered ‘wherever feasible’.
The paper highlights that the panel homes for audience measurement should to be drawn from the pool of households selected through a large establishment survey. The pool shall be at least 10 times the number of panel homes required for audience measurement, it said. The establishment survey shall be carried out annually to reflect changes in growth of TV homes, changes in demographics, growth in new delivery platforms like internet, variations of growth across markets etc. The paper lists that the selection of panel homes shall be based on distribution of target viewership for a particular segment like age group, socio-economic class, gender, working status, multiple delivery platforms, all states and urban and rural markets.
The paper also mentions that a minimum panel size of 20,000 has to be implemented within six months of the guidelines coming into force. Thereafter, the panel size shall be increased by 10,000 every year until it reaches the figure of 50,000. The panel of homes has to remain representative of all television households in the country, and the panel homes shall be updated periodically to reflect the developments taking place in the delivery platforms, growth in viewership etc., it said.
Secrecy and privacy
The TRAI paper recommends the industry body to issue a voluntary code of conduct to be followed by all stakeholders with penal provisions for breach. Ten per cent of additional panel homes beyond the required panel size shall be deployed. The actual panel homes required for computation shall be randomly sampled from the total panel homes deployed, and the rating agency will use necessary algorithms to detect outliers having unusual viewing behaviour and discard such data, the paper added.
TRAI also recommends that 25 per cent of the panel homes shall be rotated every year. The rotation shall be in such a manner that older panel homes are removed first while maintaining the representativeness of the panel. Such rotation will be achieved in a staggered manner by rotating panel homes every month and the procedure adopted for selection of panel homes and the rotation of the panel homes shall be made transparent, it said. The rating agency shall submit the detailed methodology it uses to the Government and also publish it on its website, added the TRAI paper.
The paper also lists a complaint redressal system and recommends that the rating agency shall establish an Appellate Authority.
The rates for data/reports shall be non-discriminatory and transparent and the rate card for rating data/reports shall be published in the public domain by the rating agency, suggests the TRAI recommendation. Sharing of the data/reports with a third party or in public domain be allowed subject to the fair usage policy of the rating agency. Such fair usage policy shall be provided on the website of the rating agency, suggests the TRAI paper.
(Read the full interview with Sir Martin Sorrell in Campaign India's sixth anniversary issue, dated 20 September 2013)