New Delhi: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), in its recent direction given to the TV broadcasters and distributors, has insisted them to refrain from slotting any registered TV channel in the landing pageor the bootup screen, whose rating is being measured by BARC. This will come into force with immediate effect.
Though the direction is advised to be implemented as soon as possible, the authority has fixed a deadline in all cases by 31 March 2019 incase related to pre existing agreements.
TRAI has also mentioned that information of such pre-existing agreements with complete details of the parties to the agreement, the territory, agreement period and other relevant details may be submitted to the authority within seven days from the date of issuance of this direction.
Similar direction was issued earlier by the authority earlier on 8th November 2017 in which all the broadcasters and distributors of television channels were directed to restrain from placing any registered satellite television channel, whose TV rating is released by TV rating agency, on the landing Logical Channel Number (LCN) or landing channel or boot up screen.
However putting this matter up with the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), the implementation of the direction got a stay. After which, TRAI had to revoke the direction with immediate effect with the tribunal’s permission.
Subsequently, a consultation paper on “Issues related to Placing of Television Channel on Landing Page” was issued on the 3rd April, 2018, by the authority, for which held an open house discussion (OHD) with the stakeholders in May with the 25 comments and 2 counter-comments received from the stakeholders.
Based on the submission from the stakeholders as well as the analysis of the data obtained from distributors and Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the authority came to the conclusion that placing of a channel on landing page influences Television ratings.
The placement of channels on the landing LCN offer a substantial amount of favourability to that particular TV channel while measuring viewing sessions, thereby posing a threat to the accuracy and credibility of the TV rating system, as per the authority’s observation.
On the issue of the possibility of changes in measurement methodology of television ratings to mitigate the influence of landing LCN on Television ratings, the authority was informed by BARC that the same is not feasible due to technical limitations.
They informed that the audience measurement cannot distinguish between a watermarked channel placed on landing LCN or anywhere else on the distribution platform’s LCN.
In order to alleviate this issue, TRAI also attempted to explore other alternatives, such as putting a restriction on the landing LCN settings, modifying configuration in the middleware to put landing page as a last visited page and mandating distributor to place only consumer-related information on landing LCN.However, the authority reached a conclusion that due to technical limitations in various types of distributor’s networks, these alternatives are either not feasible or would impact their commercial interests.
TRAI hopes that this direction will ensure systematic development of the sector and will also safeguard the interest of service providers and the consumers.