Can these three save the MRUC (& print)?

16 Oct,2015


By A Correspondent


The deed was done in an AGM last month, but on Thursday, it was made official.


The all-important Media Research Users Council announced the formation of a new top deck. It elected I Venkat, Director, Ushodaya Enterprises as Chairman for the next two years. It has also appointed Radhesh Uchil, formerly with Madison’s Platinum Media, as CEO.


Venkat takes over from GroupM South Asia CEO CVL Srinivas, and Uchil comes in with the exit of Shaswati Saradar.


To be fair to Srinivas, he took charge only in May 2015, taking over from Ravi Rao of Mindshare who had moved out. Rao helmed the MRUC from early 2014.


The all-important position of Chairman of the Technical Committee, held by top media consultant Paritosh Joshi, will now be taken up by NP Sathyamurthy, Executive Director, DDB MUdra Group. Sathyamurthy, it may be remembered, successfully led the MRUC secretariat as Director General from March 2003 to September 2005. Nikhil Rangnekar, CEO, Spatial Access is the new Chairman of the Marketing Committee. Sanjay Tripathy, Senior EVP at HDFC Life is the new Vice Chairman of MRUC, taking over from Rohit Gupta of Multi Screen Media.


Both Srinivas and Joshi will continue to mentor the Council, a statement added.


Venkat and Uchil are seasoned players, but the MRUC job possibly requires the two to have the skills of a police commissioner and a High Court judge. Be just and tough.


Given the rapid rise of the digital media and steady growth of all other media, print will surely not die, but advertisers could well lose faith in the reach. So even if you think this bit of ‘print is dying’ is bunkum given the large number of ads in The Times of India these days and the reliance of even big digital players on print, the growth of digital is decidedly going to impact print, especially in the all-important urban centres.


But, as many professionals tell us, the enemy for the print sector, lies within. If print players do not invest in audience research and work towards growing the sector, these three men (and the various others) could be the last officebearers of the MRUC. Finito!


Earlier this year, we saw The Times of India and Hindustan Times leaving no stone unturned in putting each other down. If better sense had not prevailed, they could well have been talking ill of their stakeholders. MxMIndia had taken a conscious decision then not to solicit any of these advertising as it wasn’t even worthy of cooler conversation.


But if BCCL and HT Media got out in the open, there were others too who were flexing their muscles, if not in the open, at least in the trade.


What now? There are only two ways the MRUC can go? Up or down. No status quo. In fact, may we advise the powers that be who have taken charge that if they do not wish to employ missionary zeal to cleanse the sytem, they should opt out.


Yes, yes, we said that. You read it right.


Since we are in Mumbai, let’s use a line inspired from Bollywood: agar dar gaya, toh print mar gaya!


We are told that there are some big and bit players who have been playing bully. There is also this confusion about who is accountable for the readership study: the MRUC or the RSCI (the Readership Studies Council of India, which is formation of a group and not a legal entity).


Thankfully, some of the officebearers at other key organisations like the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) are progressive in their outlook. Venkat himself is associated with the ABC, and has done his bit for almost every industry association.


It’s time for all print players to bury their differences and save their own future. These three men have it in them to make the difference.  While the ball lies in their court, it’s also lies in each of ours too.


Some lessons may be learnt from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) which had equally killers sharks amongst its stakeholders. It need a strong secretariat and a committed Board to effect the changes.  Print is lucky that the I&B ministry is too scared to take on the biggies. Had the same happened in news television, all hell would’ve broken loose.


Can the printwallahs do it? Yes, they can. The question is: do they want to do it.


In all of this, they shouldn’t forget the not-so-poor advertiser.  For, the stick is finally in her/his hands.


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