Indrani Sen: Should the A& M Industry allow a TV Ratings blackout?

10 Dec,2018

By Indrani Sen

 

Indian nroadcasters are apprehensive of the effect of the consumer friendly new tariffs order which TRAI plans to introduce from January 1, 2019 allowing the viewers to chose and pay for only the channels which they want to watch. According to a report carried by ET today, the Indian Broadcasters Federation (IBF) is worried about the implications of the new tariff order on the channels with relatively less viewership which are currently riding on the more established and popular channels from the stable of the same broadcaster. Therefore, IBF, which has majority shareholding in BARC, is planning to put up a proposal to the Board of the monitoring agency to suspend the TV ratings monitoring reports for 45 to 60 days (https://brandequity.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/media/broadcasters-want-a-tv-ratings-blackout-of-upto-two-months/67018521).

While I feel that the new tariff order of TRAI is restrictive in nature and puts a lot of constraint on broadcasters by dictating them how they should set up their pricing policies for the marketing their bouquet of channels to the consumers in the market place, I think it is also not right on the part of the IBF to request for a TV Ratings blackout for almost two months. If we look at the current marketing strategies and pricing policies followed by publications, we find that there are ample examples of newspapers and magazines offering combo-pricing of titles to the readers. Long time back, a few years after Independence, the government tried to introduce an act for controlling the number of pages and pricing of newspapers ie. Newspaper Price & Page ACT 1956, which had to be withdrawn later as the Supreme Court ruled it as unconstitutional. Currently, there are some pending legal cases filed by broadcasters against the TRAI tariff order pending in various courts.

With three weeks to go before the new tariff order is to be implemented, the Cable & TV industry is in doldrums with no clarity on how the new tariffs order should be implemented.  The broadcasters are justified to be concerned about the future of the long-tailed channels which are riding piggyback on their more established channels. However, their concern does not justify their plan for a blackout of the TV ratings for two months. I presume by proposing a blackout, IBF does not want to put a stop to the continuous monitoring process which will be disaster. I hope IBF just wants to stop the publication of the ratings reports by BARC.

While setting up the rules about who can operate as a Broadcast Monitoring Agency in India, our I&B Ministry was concerned about the ownership and shareholding pattern of the incumbent monitoring agency TAM, but they did not foresee the hidden implications of a Broadcast Monitoring Agency formed as an industry body with majority of shareholding by the association of broadcasters. If the A&M industry allows this proposal to get implemented, it may just be the beginning of many other high-handed moves by IBF exercising their majority shareholding of BARC.

 

Indrani Sen is a media agency veteran and now an academic and strategy consultant. She writes fortnightly – and often weekly – for MxMIndia. Her views here are personal

 

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