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Help Govt may step in to set up TRP body
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New Delhi: With the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the joint body of private broadcasters, advertisers and media agencies, missing several deadlines to put in place an industry-led mechanism to regulate the business of TRP (television rating points) in the country, the government is now in no mood to give any more extension. In fact, the government is all set to step in and appoint a government-mandated TRP body through an Act of Parliament.

BARC is an industry-led body that has been formed to regulate TRP on the recommendations of the Amit Mitra Committee on TRP overhaul, constituted by the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry last year. However, according to government sources, BARC has missed its deadlines, thereby delaying the TRP overhaul, a promise made by the government to the members of Parliament several months ago.

"We will have a final meeting with the BARC members soon. If we sense any more delay on their part to move forward, the government will step in... nothing stops us from bringing in an Ordinance and appoint a body to regulate the TRP business," a senior government official told FE.

So far, the TRP business has been in the hands of private agencies and outside any government regulations or control. However, TRP numbers (measurement of TV viewership) tend to influence the flow of R10,000 crore worth of advertising revenue generated on 250-plus channels.

The weekly television ratings also impact the content of broadcasters, which sometimes lead to sub-standard television content harming the viewers, noted the Mitra panel report that was submitted to the government in November 2010. And this is the reason the I&B ministry stepped in last year and constituted the Mitra panel.

The report had recommended setting up of BARC, besides suggesting crucial changes to the current TRP measurement mechanism, including scaling up the number of people meters from 8,000 to 30,000 and infusion of R660 crore for its overhaul among others. But there has not been any significant gains so far, sources said.

"The BARC people have taken extension after extension. First, their deadline was in May-June, then July and now we are in August. I am meeting them shortly to assess the situation," I&B minister Ambika Soni told FE recently.

According to the original timeline proposed by the Mitra panel, at least 3,500 people meters should have been added within this year. So far, not even BARC has been constituted.

The TRP system has come under severe criticism from all sections of the society for impacting the TV content, which then affects the sensibilities of a large section of the society. The criticism of TRP has even rocked both houses of Parliament after which the UPA government intervened and subsequently appointed the Mitra panel to review and recommend changes in the TRP business. The government now wants broadcasters and advertisers to expand the sample size to around 500 million-strong viewer base.

According to the original timeline, a 12-member board in BARC was to be constituted in May, comprising broadcasters (6 private, 1 Doordarshan), advertisers (3 members), advertising agencies (2 members, including DAVP). The I&B ministry also gave till the end of June to BARC for putting in place a complaint redressal mechanism on the lines of the model being followed by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). Next, the BARC was required to set in motion a process for increasing the sample size from the present level of around 8,000 people meters to 15,000 people meters over a period of the next two years, at an estimated investments of R220 crore. Between 2013 and 2016, BARC is again required to double the sample size of people meters from 15,000 to 30,000 at an estimated investment of another R440 crore. But most of the steps have not come into force so far, sources told FE.

The proposed BARC will have to broadbase its sample collection and become representative of urban and rural areas, small towns, Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East. Also, under the revamped TRP system, the sample will have to cover all platforms and technologies such as terrestrial TV, digital and analog cable, DTH and IPTV.

BARC will also bear the cost of expansion of the TRP measurement system. "To meet the expenses, the broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies will be requested to pay a certain percentage of their turnovers to BARC on an annual basis. BARC should initiate a dialogue immediately with the industry to pay an agreed annual fee to meet the cost of expansion," a government source said.

Source: The Financial Express

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