MxM Comment: Enough of trading charges. Industry needs to bring warring partners to the table

27 Aug,2012

By Pradyuman Maheshwari


It’s the kind of content that’s been seeing our hit rates go up, but I seriously think enough is enough. It is time the industry gets together and brings warring partners to the table. It’s important that either an industry body like IBF or AAAI or someone who would earn the respect of all parties concerned were to convene this. MxMIndia would have been happy to take the lead, but we’d rather be an independent observer than a participant. Although both Star and Madison do have active linkages with NDTV and WPP respectively, I would think Messrs Sam Balsara and Uday Shankar would do well to take the lead. For, the current blamegame and exchange of unpleasantries can continue forever, and we could still be struggling for solutions.


What’s worse is that Sir Martin Sorrell is himself being dragged into the war of words. So an NDTV statment rubbishes what Sorrell and WPP have to say. And WPP (and Sir Sorrell) haven’t hesitated from commenting on NDTV’s fortunes and its lawyers. Thankfully, Dr Prannoy Roy’s name hasn’t been pulled in yet. But for how long?


Representatives from all stakeholders have privately confided to this writer and corroborated MxMIndia’s original standpoint that it’s the system that’s ought to be blamed for the mess the industry is in and not just TAM. I may even stick my neck out and say that from the information I have, the TAM management isn’t corrupt, though there one may not rule out the presence of some rotten apples in the rank and file. The only way to eliminate that is by a process that has a reasonable number of checks and balances.


TAM’s problem is that for too long it has not had a joint stakeholder body (BARC, earlier Joint Industry Body) governing it and providing it a frame of reference for operations. In the recent past, with the exit of aMap, it’s been a monopolistic play but you can’t blame TAM for that. The industry didn’t patronise aMap well enough.


News broadcasters are particularly peeved with the current measurement system because their demand for a stop to weekly ratings wasn’t accepted by TAM. TAM, on its part, said if all stakeholders – broadcasters, advertisers and agencies – were unanimous, they would make the switch.


WPP is huge in India – Group M, Ogilvy and WPP and several other outfits. The aggregate employee strength is 12,000 and revenues are of around $500million. NDTV too has a reputation of being a quality broadcaster. I am sure neither is taking the Indian market lightly.


Now let’s avoid a bloodbath of words.


PS: I have another worry. The news broadcasters have already asked the Minister of Information and Broadcasting to intervene in the measurement issue. While one appreciates the sentiments of the NBA, asking the government to step in can be suicidal. If the government finds the war of words between statekholders never-ending, it may well do that and last week’s example with blocking Twitter ids is a fair indicator of how governments can act.


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