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TRAI issues guidelines for television ratings

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | September 12, 2013
As the sector regulator is responsible for overall development of the sector, the authority may suo motu intervene in larger public interest.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended fresh guidelines for the television rating agencies in India.

TRAI

According to the TRAI, since 2008, it has been giving its recommendations/clarifications on implementing a reliable and transparent television rating system. For over four years, little or no progress has been made by the industry and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), in implementing them. "As the sector regulator is responsible for overall development of the sector, the authority cannot be a mute spectator to continued inaction and may suo motu intervene in larger public interest," it said.

As per the framework for 'regulating television rating system', television rating agencies shall be regulated through a framework in the form of guidelines. Guidelines for the rating agencies have to be notified by MIB, preferably within two months. These guidelines shall be applicable to all rating agencies providing television rating services in India. Also, guidelines shall mandatorily cover registration, eligibility norms, cross-holding, methodology of rating, complaint redressal, sale and use of ratings, audit, disclosure, reporting requirements and penal provisions.

All rating agencies, including the existing rating agency (TAM Media Research) has to obtain a registration from the MIB. Rating agencies shall be granted registration subject to their meeting the eligibility norms and the MIB has to publish the procedure for application and grant of registration.

In addition to this, the rating agency shall be set up and registered as a company under the Companies Act, 1956. It shall have, in its Memorandum of Association (MoA), specified rating services or market research, as one of its main objects. The MoA shall 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. Also, any member of the Board of Directors of the television rating company shall not be in the business of broadcasting/ advertising/advertising agency. The rating agency shall have a minimum net worth of Rs 20 crore and shall meet the prescribed cross-holdings requirements. However, it is pertinent to note here that the last three points will not be applicable in the self-regulation model where the industry-led body (BARC) itself provides the rating.

The number of panel homes for collecting television viewership data will be minimum of 20,000; to be set up within six months of the guidelines coming into force. Thereafter, the number of panel homes shall be increased by 10,000 every year until panel size reaches 50,000. The panel homes have to be selected from a pool of households, selected through an establishment survey which shall be at least 10 times the number of panel homes for audience measurement.

As per the TRAI recommendation, there has to be voluntary code of conduct by the industry for maintaining secrecy and privacy of the panel homes. There will be restrictions on 'substantial equity of 10 per cent or more' between rating agencies and broadcasters/advertisers/ad agencies. Additionally, the data/reports generated by the rating agency have to be made available, on paid basis, to all interested stakeholders in a transparent and equitable manner. Meanwhile, the rating agency has to get entire methodology/processes audited internally on quarterly basis and through an independent auditor annually. All audit reports to be put on the website of the rating agency. The penal provisions for non-compliance of guidelines include financial penalty from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore and cancellation of registration.

This would imply that the current audience measurement ratings system in India, TAM will get six months to add almost 10,000 panel homes. Funding has always been an issue because of the high investments needed in the process. It will be interesting to see how TAM complies with these guidelines.

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