Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rating of Televison Viewership.

"The words Dr. N. Bhaskar Rao said are true to the scenario and the fate of Television in India. It is necessary for us to promote this with 'you'. You, the viewer, the receiver and the follower. Hope you agrre that TV is not bound to TRP. The Social Responsibility factor is more adamant". Inhale these words for the better sake of Televison News viewership….

Media Yug

Dr. N. Bhaskara Rao’s Observations introducing the topic to the CMS National meet on TV viewership ratings at India International Centre, New Delhi, March 7, 2007


1. As is the practice at CMS, I would like to say at the very outset that this programme is being organized independently on our own – not at any one’s instance. There are no sponsors, nor is there any conflict of interest.

2. CMS started 17 years ago as a methodology research agency, having earlier pioneered readership and viewership studies. CMS organized more than a couple of discussions and workshops on research methodologies here at IIC and written extensively about audience measurement.

3. In fact, CMS had developed with in the country more than a decade ago, in collaboration with ECIL a meter and methodology for studying viewing patterns. However, after demonstrating, it gave up for viability reasons and also because of DD’s shortsighted out look that it should get endorsement of advertisers.

4. No body would say that we do not need to viewership studies. In fact, we need to put more serious efforts and spend more for this so that we have more reliable research beyond temporal purpose. Ratings of course facilitate advertisers and ad agencies by simplifying their work and optimize the advertiser’s spend. But when they are publicized as the benchmarks, we need to be concerned about their inclusiveness and the consequences of such ratings in the larger context. That is why; we need to be discussing basic issues to do with television as the most powerful media. And any such research should help enhance the very reach and maximize potential of TV, improve level playing opportunities, encourage citizen’s participative role, and help think beyond day to day top-of-the-mind aspects of viewership, going beyond whether the TV set is on or not and who is around the TV.

You will recall the poser of Finance Minister Chidambaram a day after presenting his budget as to what he said how “instant coverage” of channels of budget was misleading.

5. Recently we were on a committee on environmental sensivity promotion, where in a young consultant from ad world had given a prescription to the Ministry that its TV based programmes should be evaluated using TRPs as the criteria and the Secretary of the Ministry went along innocently, not relishing what it meant to the core objectivities of the Ministry to the core objectivities of the Ministry.

6. Some time ago in one state capital, we held a conference about recent paradigm shift in media operations. When one channel CEO referred and shared with the gathering about a prescription given to his channel by their market research consultant on what should be programme priorities using TRPs and he also gave the channel a programme formula to get higher TRPs in writing.

7. With recent proliferation of television channels, the percent of unreached people in the country should have gone down substantially, But has it? It has not. By and large it remained stagnant. What does it imply. The chase for viewership is in fact for the deep pockets although that is bound to be. But than the phenomena in operation here too is the same -- “rich becoming richer”.

8. I had the opportunity to see recently a presentation of aMap a new rating agency, and earlier, a couple of years ago, of TAM, the agency that has been the sole rating agency after the merger of the two-backed by two different market research agencies. TAM deserve praise for its efforts over these two decades for pioneering the tools. A few weeks ago on the eve of the launch of IPTV in Delhi, Amit Dev the man behind it, told me how viewership could be monitored more reliably and less costly. With more delivery technologies coming obviously, the rating methodology can not remain static.

9. That is how we thought of this meet today. And we were encouraged by the responses we got at the very outset. – from Mr. Bhaskar Gosh, the man who is credited for many ideas and initiatives in this sector, Ms. Brinda Karat, MP, Mr. Subhash Chandra of Zee TV, Mr. Kiron Karnik and earlier by Mr. Somnath Chattergee, now the Lok Sabha speaker, to mention just a couple of people who felt that meet is much delayed.

10. We thought we should sensitise about the rating services not only those in policy responsibilities but also the larger public. One need to wonder how ratings have become the yardstick and benchmark with so few knowing about the very approach and knowing so little about its relevance. We have over 100 universities having Communication Dept. and yet there has been no contribution or involvement of this, even as antiques.

11. I am grateful to TAM’s Mr. L.V. Krishnan and aMap’s Ravi Arora for coming from Mumbai and Ahmedabad to give a presentation on their rating services. I also thank Amit Dev of Time Broadband. We all should appreciate their interest. I am sure they are even as much concerned about the people and limitations of the current system and are interested in coming up with a more reliable ratings. They of course are trying their best. I have all praise for Krishnan’s efforts in this report over the years. But then they alone cannot be blamed for rating becoming part of public relations and aggressive marketing by channels. But since such use will effect the very credibility of ratings, we should be concerned about such a practice and also see that they are used more responsibly and objectively. This meet is not to condemn everything about ratings. Rather it is to facilitate a more reliable & representative one. Ratings could also be created for speeding up the growth of TV India.

12. Over the years, at CMS, as some of you know, we have been analyzing trends at macro level and in fact CMS Media Lab has been doing a daily content analysis of news channels in particular. We see clear signs of role of ratings on the content priorities of channels. Offlate TV Ratings are used more by channels than by advertising agencies. That is how we thought we should open up the debate in the interest of every one, particularly the public rather than leaving it to the channels, advertising agencies, market researchers and P.R. agencies. Some seems to think that advertising agencies should be discussing about ratings. In my opinions it is the channels, civil society and policy people who should be concerned more. I am glad that the Secretary, I&B, Mr. Choubey of TRAI, are here. The media scene is also changing because of technologies like CAS, DTH, IPTV and cell phone as of now. What implications & challenges will this emerging technologies have on TRPs?

13. CMS has compiled some basic concerns of well informed people about TV viewership ratings. These are presented as “some posers”. I hope you all had collected a copy of it. These are compiled over the years with a view to provoke a debate on rating service so that we could evolve a more reliable, relevant, responsible, representative and objective analysis of viewership taking into account fast changing communication technologies and scenario. Please read these posers. But please help to better the rating practices and enhance the very scope of audience measurement.

14. To this meet we invited CEO’s of most TV companies, many advertising agencies, some advertisers, media experts and academics. At least a couple of them from each functions are expected during the course of the day.

Courtesy: Centre for Media Studies

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