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Reliance Media World slams IRS data of radio listeners
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New Delhi: Anil Ambani’s radio arm Reliance Media World (Big 92.7 brand), the single largest FM firm, has accused the Media Research User Council (MRUC)—the creator of Indian Readership Survey (IRS) data—of providing an erroneous radio measurement system which is causing loss in revenue and employment for the radio industry. This is due to the under-reporting the number of radio listeners, especially in smaller towns. This is significant because it is the first instance of a large media house questioning the IRS data on radio listeners.

Though over 70% FM radio stations are based in smaller towns, a bulk of their advertising revenues are skewed towards bigger ones. The upcoming FM-III policy will see radio stations come up in smaller towns and districts.

Reliance Media World (RMW), which operates the maximum number of private FM radio stations (45) across the country, has accused MRUC’s IRS of under-reporting the number of listeners by up to 30%, compared to a customised radio measurement system. This, according to RMW, has a negative repercussion on a nascent radio industry whose only source of income is from advertising revenue, which in turn depends on the number of listeners of the 250 FM radio stations in the country.

“IRS is a grossly erroneous measurement system, designed primarily for print readership. Its results clearly under-report the number of radio listeners by around 30% less than customised radio measurement systems. This affects revenue generation, both presently and potentially, showcases de-growth of the industry, causes loss of employment and also deprives the tier II markets of a cost-effective mode of advertising,” says Tarun Katial, CEO, Reliance Media World Ltd.

While IRS data covers the entire country, Radio Audience Measurement or RAM, provided by leading TV measurement agency TAM, currently covers only the metros. The 250 private FM radio stations operated by 40-odd radio firms depend on the data to attract around Rs 800 crore of advertising revenue. With the alleged under-reporting of data in the smaller towns, a bulk of the advertising revenue gets distributed among 70-80 FM stations operating in bigger towns and metros, say radio experts.

<img style="float:left; margin: 0px 10px 0px 0px;" src="http://static.expressindia.com/expressindia/newpic/error.jpg" />MRUC’s flagship product, the IRS data, is relied upon by agencies, advertisers and the media for measurement of print and magazine readership and tends to form benchmarks for advertising rates of publications.

Sources say Reliance Media World (RMW) may take MRUC to court. The company is also in talks with various agencies to launch an alternative radio body to report the number of listeners. The radio industry is also worried because the combined industry loss is now pegged at over Rs 2,600 crore due to high operating costs—one-time entry fees paid to the government for licences and capital expenditure among others.

Several leading radio players support the concerns raised by RMW. Radio operators have questioned the methodology and periodicity of the radio data of IRS. “The IRS questionnaire is very long, of about 34 pages. This takes up to 90 minutes to complete. The radio section is at the end of the interview that puts the response at the risk of respondent’s fatigue, thereby raising serious doubts on the authenticity of the response provided by the respondents,” says a senior executive of a leading radio station.

Top executives of radio industry also allege that the pattern of reported radio data in IRS over the past four years have been inconsistent and in some cases grossly inaccurate. Radio players have also raised objections to a half-yearly release of IRS data as patterns of listeners can change far more quickly, say radio experts.

Source: The Financial Express

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