Mediaah! | Ratings controversy: Too little too late

21 Aug,2012

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

That the meeting last week where the ISA and AAAI met with TAM did not have the IBF in attendance made one wonder whether all was still not well between the three bodies on the constitution of BARC, and perhaps television measurement itself. This despite the fact all key officebearers from the three apex bodies of advertising, ad agencies and broadcasters have been working overtime to make it happen.

 

The controversy that’s erupted thanks to NDTV taking TAM and its principals to court is the biggest that Indian commercial television has faced thus far.

 

And the governmental threat of setting up a TRAI-like Broadcasters’ Regulatory Authority of India is for real. Ideally it ought to be a Media Regulatory Authority of India which will also include newspapers, radio and the digital media in its fold, but successive governments and bureaucrats are too scared of taking on newspaper barons and editors. It’s the threat of a government-imposed regulator that got warring Hindi news channels Aaj Tak and India TV to smoke the peace pipe. If a TRAI-like regulator happens, all media entities know that could face a tough time.

 

I don’t want to get into the merits of the NDTV v/s TAM, etc case. The matter’s sub-judice and discussed to death.

 

The action points that TAM came up with on Friday may buy some peace for the moment, but it’s a case of too little too late (link: http://www.mxmindia.com/2012/08/tam-offers-6-action-steps-in-meeting-with-isa-aaai/). Ensuring security measures and an internal audit team are measures that ought to have been taken (and insisted on) from Day 1. The communiqué quoting Messrs Bharat Patel and Arvind Sharma says: “We look forward to speedy implementation of the six action steps outlined by TAM. With the formation of Broadcast Audience Research Council-BARC on the anvil, it will be appropriate for us to request BARC to review if these steps are adequate.”

 

Note the statement says the formation of BARC is on the anvil. Given the extent of time the print readership council took to happen (note the appointment of the research company/alliance awarded the contract has still not been announced), my guess is that it will take it around 12-18 months for any alternative to be set up.

 

None of the stakeholders – at last week’s meeting or outside of it – have announced stopping their subscription to the current system. So if they haven’t done it, and in fact still sport TAM numbers whenever the ratings are favourable to them, isn’t it time that stop having double standards?

 

Already the ownership structure of BARC is not a healthy one. Advertisers ought to be paying the lion’s share since any research will help their money being better utilised. The broadcasters could’ve contributed to the corpus that will facilitate the operations of BARC and the research process (the boxes et al). But now all of this is history. Broadcasters will own 60% of BARC, and advertisers and ad agencies will own 20 percent each.

 

Thankfully for the broadcasters, the I&B ministry is busy elsewhere (Assam, social media etc). One wrong move, you can be sure that the government will flex its muscles.

 

My guess (and information) is an announcement on BARC will happen sooner than that.

 

Mediaah! is written by Pradyuman Maheshwari, senior journalist and Editor-in-chief, MxMIndia. He can be reached at: pradyumanm[at]mxmindia.com, Gtalk pradyumanm@gmail.com, BBM 29FEA79C. Twitter @pmahesh.  The views expressed here are his own.

 

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