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The Lowdown: India’s TV Ratings Guidelines


India’ s Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has released guidelines specifying procedures that TV Rating agencies in the country have to follow, which will come into force on the 15th of February 2014. No rating agencies are allowed to publish ratings until they’re in compliance with these guidelines, and once a company is registered, they have to generate and publish ratings within 6 months, failing which their registration will be canceled.  Download the guidelines here. The lowdown:

The Basics

1. Conflict of Interest Issues: The company’s Memorandum of Association will specify “specified rating services or market research”, as one of its main objectives, and not include any activity like consultancy or any such advisory role, which would lead to a potential conflict of interest. The board of directors on the company shall not be in the business of broadcasting, advertising or advertising agency. A promoter company/member of the board of directors of the rating agency cannot have stakes in any broadcaster/ advertiser/advertising agency either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings. The rating agency shall not include any officer, employee or any other member, of broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies, in the audience measurement panel.
2. Cross Holding: No single company/ legal entity, either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings, shall have 10% or more equity holding in rating agencies and broadcasters / advertisers / advertising agencies, or in more than one rating agency operating in the same area. This is applicable to both individual promoters of companies, as well as legal entities.
This isn’t applicable to a self-regulation model where the industry-led body, such as, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) itself provides the rating.

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3. FDI in Rating Agencies: Guidelines will be issued separately
4. Registration period: 10 years from the date of issue, renewable for 10 years thereafter. The company will need the permission of Ministry of I&B to change its board of directors.
5. Money: Rs 10 lakh registration fee, Rs 25 lakh and Rs 75 lakh bank guarantee as compliance guarantees for a period of 10 years.
6. Data Protection Code Of Conduct: To be defined by an industry body, to be followed by all stakeholders, including penal provisions for breach of the code.
7. Disclosures on the agency’s website should include detailed rating methodology, possible source of errors, coverage area (geographical, SEC representation), sources of conflict of interest, quality control measures both internally and externally, rate cards for reports and discounts offered, ownership of the rating agency including foreign and VC investment, quarterly audit reports, complaint redressal statistics, user comments on ratings data.
8. Jurisdiction: Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, and TRAI. In case of a dispute between Govt and the company, disputes to be addressed by TDSAT and under the jurisdiction of the courts of New Delhi
9. Transfer of registration: A company may not transfer its registration without approval of Ministry of I&B. On a written request, the ministry will allow transfer in case of merger/demerger/ amalgamation, or from one Group Company to another.

Methodology for Audience Measurement

1. Cross Platform Panels: Ratings should be technology neutral, and share data cross multiple platforms, including cable TV, Direct-to- Home (DTH), Terrestrial TV etc.; online platforms to be covered wherever feasible. The rating agency shall submit the detailed methodology it uses to the Government and also publish it on its website.
2. Creation Of Panel & Annual Selection Survey: The panel has to be drawn from the pool of households selected through a large scale establishment survey, with a household pool that is 10 times the number of panel homes required for audience measurement. This survey shall need to be carried out annually, to reflect the growth in TV Homes, changes in demographics, growth in new delivery platforms like Internet, and needs to be based on distribution of target viewership for a particular segment like age group, socio-economic class, gender, working status, multiple delivery platforms, all States and urban & rural markets.
3. Minimum panel size of 20,000, to be implemented within 6 months of the guidelines coming into force, after which, has to be increased by 10,000 every year until it reaches the figure of 50,000.  10% additional panel homes beyond the required panel size shall be deployed. The actual panel homes required for computation shall be randomly sampled from the total panel homes deployed. The rating agency will use necessary algorithms to detect outliers having unusual viewing behavior and discard such data.
4. 25% of the panel homes shall be rotated every year. The rotation shall be in such a manner that older panel homes are removed first while maintaining the representativeness of the panel. Such rotation will be achieved in a staggered manner by rotating panel homes every month.

Use of Ratings

1. Costs To Be Public: The rate card for rating data/reports shall be published in the public domain by the rating agency.
2. Cant Withhold Data: The data generated by the rating agency be made available, on paid basis, to all interested stakeholders in a transparent and equitable manner.
3. Sharing of the data/reports with a third party or in public domain be allowed subject to the fair usage policy of the rating agency. Such fair usage policy shall be provided on the website of the rating agency

Complaint Redressal

1. Establish a call center: for the purposes of registering complaints and redressal of grievances of complainants, operational 24×7, with a toll free number. It should also take complaints online, by email, by post, and provide details on its website on registration of complaints.

2. Each complaint will get a unique number. Records of complaints need to be kept for 3 months from the date of resolution of the complaint. Complaints to be addressed within 7 days of receipt.
3. Nodal Officer & Appellate Authority: If a Call Center doesn’t address the consumers complaint adequately, then a designated Nodal officer will have to look into it, within 10 days, and if that doesn’t work, then a designated Appelate Authority shall have 15 days from the receipt of the appeal.
4. Government or TRAI complaints: need to be addressed within 15 days of forwarding

Violation Of Guidelines

1. Non-compliance of guidelines on cross-holding, methodology, secrecy, privacy, audit, public disclosure and reporting requirements: forfeiture of both Bank Guarantees furnished by the company in the first instance, and, in the second instance shall lead to cancellation of registration.
2. For violation of other provisions: forfeiture of Bank Guarantee of Rs. 25 lakhs for the first instance, forfeiture of Bank Guarantee of Rs. 75 lakhs for the second instance of non compliance and for the third instance, cancellation of registration.

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