The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper (pdf) on the ‘Review of Television Audience Measurement and Ratings in India’ earlier this month. In its statement, the TRAI said that it has suo-motu floated this paper because –

“several concerns relating to neutrality and reliability of the existing rating system have been raised by stakeholders, which necessitated a need to review of existing Television Audience Measurement and Ratings system in India.”

TRAI has also invited other comments on issues relevant to the consultation. Comments on the consultation paper can be sent by January 2, 2019, and counter comments may be sent by January 16, 2019 to Arvind Kumar, Advisor (B&CS), TRAI on his mail id: arvind@trai.gov.in.

“Audience measurement implies measurement of what is being viewed. On the basis of audience measurement data, ratings are assigned to various programmes on television. Television ratings in turn influence programmes produced for the viewers,” read the statement.

Issues for Consultation

In its 68-pages long consultation paper, the TRAI raised around 17 questions for consultation.

    1. Whether BARC has been able to accomplish the purpose with transparency and without any bias for which it has been established? Suggest measures to enhance the effectiveness if BARC to give TV ratings with transparency and without bias.
    2. If the stakeholders feel that present ownership pattern of BARC ensures adequate representation of all stakeholders to maintain its neutrality and transparent TV ratings? How its credibility and neutrality can be enhanced further?
    3. Is there a need to promote competition in television rating services to ensure transparency, neutrality and fairness to give TAM rating? What regulatory measures be taken to make TV rating services more accurate and widely acceptable?
    4. Is the current audience measurement technique used by BARC apposite? Suggestions to improve the current measurement techniques.
    5. Does broadcast programmes that are out of their category or in different language for some time during the telecast affect the TAM rating? If so, what measures should be adopted to curb it?
    6. Can TV rating truly be based on limited panel homes be termed as representative?
    7. What should be done to reduce impact of manipulation of panel home data on overall TV ratings?
    8. What should be the panel size both in urban and rural India to give true representation of audience?
    9. What method and technology would help to rapidly increase the panel size for television audience measurement in India? What will be the commercial challenge in implementing such solutions?
    10.  The paper says that another method for rapid panel expansion could be to mandate the distribution platform operators (DPOs) i.e. cable operators and DTH operators to electronically send viewership data to television measurement agency. It asks should DPOs be mandated to facilitate collection of viewership data electronically subject to consent of subscribers to increase data collection points for better TRP ratings?
    11. What percentage of set-top box (STB) support transferring viewership data through establishing a reverse path/connection from STB? What will be the additional cost if existing STBs without return path are upgraded?
    12.  What method should be adopted for privacy of individual information and to keep the individual information anonymous?
    13. What should be the level/granularity of information retrieved by the television audience measurement agency from the panel homes so that it does not violate principles of privacy?
    14. What measures need to be taken to address the issue of panel tampering/infiltration?
    15. Should BARC be permitted to provide raw level data to broadcasters? If yes, how secrecy of households, where the people meters are placed, can be maintained?
    16. Will provisioning of raw level data to broadcasters, in any manner, either directly or indirectly contravene the policy guidelines for television rating agencies prescribed by MIB?
    17. Is the current disclosure and reporting requirements in the present guidelines sufficient? If no, what additional disclosure and reporting requirements should be added?

A short history of TV ratings

In 2013, the TRAI provided its recommendation to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) for laying down a mechanism for TV rating agencies for transparency and accountability in the rating system. TRAI, according to its statement, supported self-regulation of TV ratings through an industry led body like Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).

  • In January 2014, MIB accepted TRAI’s recommendations of comprehensive guidelines for registration of television rating agencies. MIB notified the Policy Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies in India.
  • On July 28th, 2015, MIB accredited BARC to carry out TV ratings in India.
  • BARC commenced its operations in 2015 and since then is the sole provider of TV rating services on commercial basis.