To address the evolving Television ecosystem and complexities, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting constituted a committee to review ‘Guidelines on Television Rating Agencies in India’ under the Chairmanship of Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati on November 4, 2020. TRAI has issued recommendations on the review of TV audience measurement and Rating Systems in India.
The committee’s report accessed by MediaNews4U.Com, notes that unhealthy business practices are affecting the integrity of TV channel ratings.
TRAI has recommended structural reforms in the Governance structure of BARC to improve credibility and bring transparency and instil confidence in all the stakeholders in the TRP measurement system. The committee finds the need to strengthen the corporate governance of BARC India. The Committee sees the need for an appropriate directive to the stakeholder bodies managing BARC India regarding the choice of nominee to the post of chairperson and other positions in the board while ensuring integrity, independence and no conflicts of interest.
“The grave distress of the business practices that have emerged within the industry in recent years to game the rating system raises questions on the conduct and integrity of participants and their non-adherence to the applicable norms of fair play,” the committee stated.
The committee feels that the government may consider temporarily suspending its license to BARC India after suitably amending guidelines and issuing necessary directives to BARC India. The temporary suspension may be limited to the period till BARC India and the stakeholder bodies managing it have complied with the directives.
TRAI has recommended for the equal representation of the three constituent Industry Associations, namely; AAAI, ISA and IBF and with equal voting rights irrespective of their proportion of equity holding. Tenure of the members of the Board shall be for two years. The committee sees the need for an appropriate directive to stakeholder bodies managing BARC India on enforcing term limits and ensuring widest participation by all stakeholder representatives through rotation and by limiting the number of seats held by anyone stakeholder corporation.
- The Committee sees the need for an appropriate directive to the stakeholder bodies managing BARC India regarding the choice of nominee to the post of chairperson ensuring integrity, independence and no conflicts of interest.
- The committee finds that the sample size varies across countries. India has a 0.02% panel size as a percentage of TV households. The committee finds the need to ensure that the sample size is in line with global benchmarks for a large TV household country with a diverse socioeconomic, demographic profile.
- TRAI has recommended that BARC should keep all relevant data at least for one year in the same format and pattern as in the final ratings, declared to the subscribers including Broadcasters, advertising agencies, and advertisers. To which BARC India has clarified to the committee that it maintains records of all raw data from its panel homes and published data made available to its subscribers.
- TRAI has also recommended that BARC should automate data processing in such a manner that no manual intervention is required before the final TRP rating is released. The committee finds that the existing guidelines already provide for adequate provisions to ensure the same. Further, as observed earlier in the interest of transparency, the committee finds the need for an appropriate directive to BARC India.
- The committee finds the need for an Appellate body to redress grievances and mediate disputes.
- The committee finds that the guidelines for panel selection in their current form do not explicitly provide for the option to further enrich ratings with RPD data or other emerging crowdsourced datasets. Hence, the guidelines may be suitably modified to allow for the same while ensuring that the panel size as a proportion of TV households is in line with the global benchmark for a large and diverse market like India.
- The committee finds that there currently is no Appellate body outside the rating agency(s) where stakeholders may take unresolved grievances. Similarly, it is observed that disputes related to ratings are directly landing up in courts in the absence of such an Appellate body. Hence, the committee finds the need for an industry-wide Appellate body to redress grievances and mediate disputes between stakeholders and rating agencies.
- The committee sees the need to issue an appropriate directive to the stakeholder bodies regarding the frequent suspension of ratings.
Draft Directives to BARC and its stakeholder bodies states that Chairperson BARC and Members of BARC Board as nominees of the stakeholder bodies should not only be persons of eminence with impeccable credentials in corporate governance but should also be someone without conflicts of interest. Further the nominee for Chairperson, BARC should have no other full-time responsibilities. Articles of Association may be suitably amended to ensure the same.
The stakeholder bodies must ensure the widest opportunity for member representatives to participate by rotation through the mechanism of term limits. Further, the number of seats held by any stakeholder corporation must be capped. Articles of Association may be suitably amended to ensure the same.
Associations such as News Broadcasters Association and News Broadcasters Federation have also requested interventions on the matters pertaining to lapses/loopholes in audience measurement systems.