These 6 folks will help TV ratings get Transparent

14 May,2013

L to R: Dr. M Damodaran, Chintamani Rao, Giovanni Fabris, Ivor Millman, Praveen Tripathi, Sheila Byfield

 

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

In what is clearly an attempt to build confidence amongst stakeholders (and thereby silence critics), television audience measurement firm TAM Media Research has set up an elite TAM Transparency Panel (TTP), which is essentially a panel of ombudsmen for the much questioned audience measurement process in the country.

 

TAM Media Research was mandated by a joint industry body to measure television viewership in 1998. Although it’s the only measurement agency in operations currently, until a few years back, another agency called aMap was engaged in a similar exercise. However, poor patronage forced aMap out of business, and TAM is the only agency in existence.

 

 

 

Have a problem with ratings?

Step 1: Write to TAM, explain the problem, raise your doubts and show them evidence if you think there’s a mess-up on the field

Step 2: If you don’t find TAM responsive or aren’t happy with its response, mail the ombudsmen at the TTP. The email id isttp@tamindia.com… it’s a temporary one, an independent, non-TAM id is being set up

 

In the early days of TAM’s operations, there was frequent monitoring of processes by a ‘technical committee’, but since stakeholders have busy schedules, TAM was left on its own. Egged by the government, the trade associations set up Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) way back in 2008. The joint industry body, which appointed a CEO last week, is currently working towards appointing vendors. But that process is expected to take around a year.

 

In the meantime, TAM has appointed a Transparency Panel (TTP) comprising not one, but six ombudsmen, who will hear complaints, deliberate on issues and take decisions which TAM has pledged to adhere too.

 

In addition, as per a report by senior journalist Rohit Bansal for news agency IANS which first mentioned about this development, “two of the ‘big four’ global audit firms are also being roped in to audit the TAM process”. Also, as per Mr Bansal’s report, a police officer has been appointed for “vigilance duties” in order to “clear roadblocks being faced in maintaining the integrity of TAM meters.”

 

What appears to be a masterstroke by TAM is the composition of the TTP. All members are industry veterans and while they may be consulting, they are not full-time employees in an organisation. Heading the panel is Dr M Damodaran, a retired IAS office and former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), IDBI and the UTI.

 

Others include:

  • Chintamani Rao (former BARC chairman, veteran adperson – having spent long years at Lintas, Universial McCan, Ogilvy & Mather and RK Swamy as well as with broadcasters Times Televison and earlier India TV)
  • Giovanni Fabris (formerly international media director at McDonald’s)
  • Ivor Millman (veteran TV audience measurement expert and formerly member of the BARB board in the UK)
  • Praveen Tripathi (market research veteran, formerly MD, Starcom India and Strategic Planning Director, P&G China etc)
  • Sheila Byfield (former Global Director, Insights and Research, WPP)

 

Needless to say, bringing in former Dr Damodaran who has headed the regulatory body SEBI will also ensure that government and Parliamentarians respect the panel for its credibility.

 

L V Krishnan

Confirming the setting up of the TTP, L V Krishnan told MxMIndia that the six panelists have met twice already – once in December and next in April. “They are next due to meet in July, tentatively in the third week”.

 

Mr Krishnan indicated that a secretariat and email ids are being created for the panel to be truly independent. Panellists are remunerated sitting fees, which is currently being paid by TAM, though going forward industry bodies may be requested to pay them so that there is complete independence.

 

According to sources, the setting up of the TAM Transparency Panel has been in the works for over two years. The idea was to get professionals with the right experience and stature. Hence the composition of three national and international panellists.

 

In the December 20 meeting which last two days followed by an interaction with around 20-odd broadcast and advertising agency captains. Among the CEOs present at the evening do were: Sam Balsara, Shashi Sinha, Arvind Sharma, B Sai Kumar, Markand Adhikari, Sunil Lulla and Sudhanshu Vats of Viacom18 amongst others. The six panelists were also taken to TAM’s facility in Vadodara to familiarize them of the processes followed.

 

The second round saw a three-day meeting (April 30 and May 1 and 2), including a meeting with two broadcasters. A set of guidelines on TAM data usage was also issued, given that it is representation of data and claims that is the root cause of all problems.

 

The panel, Mr Krishnan told us, will have an arm’s length distance from all stakeholders, TAM included. Welcoming the development, an industryperson who MxMIndia spoke with, said the panel is long overdue. “The joint industry body should’ve done it years back to avoid the breakdown that we saw some months back with NDTV taking TAM and its principals to court. However, at that time the thinking was to have representatives of various members on board and that never happens because industryfolk have enough work of their own!”

 

On the guidelines issue, Mr Krishnan clarified it was an advisory. “We have issued the guidelines and now it’s for the industry bodies to have their members follow them.”

 

Meanwhile, while the industrypersons MxMIndia spoke with have adopted a wait-and-watch approach to the TTP, there is overall agreement that it’s a step in the right direction. As for how transparent the ratings process gets, that, we guess, time (and TAM) will tell.

 

 

 

 

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