Trai suggests norms to track radio audience
New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Thursday proposed a regulatory framework for radio audience measurement to ensure a transparent, credible and representative radio ratings system in India.
This framework will include guidelines for registration, eligibility norms, cross-holding restrictions, methodology of rating, complaint redressal, sale and use of ratings, audit, disclosure, reporting requirements and penal provisions for the radio rating agencies.
The suggestions have been submitted to the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry for approval. Radio audience measurement refers to the process of mapping listenership of a radio station in a particular market.
Currently, the listenership is measured by a private, independent firm, TAM Media Research, through its unit, RAM or Radio Audio Measurement—a joint venture between research firms IMRB International and Nielsen Media Research.
According to a note issued by the regulator, the current radio measurement system is unregulated and inefficient. “The present system of radio ratings in India appears to have certain deficiencies that have been highlighted by stakeholders at various forums,” Trai said in a note, adding there is a need to expand the number of cities in the current system.
TAM Media Research maps FM radio channels only in the top four markets—Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata—and provides this data to private FM radio firms, advertisers and ad agencies. “Continuance with an inadequate radio rating system is likely to hamper the growth of radio industry as financial decisions are largely influenced by radio ratings,” Trai added.
Trai in March issued a consultation paper inviting comments from radio service operators, including AM (amplitude modulated—short wave and medium wave) and FM (frequency modulated) operators, industry bodies, advertisers and radio listeners on issues related to radio audience measurement and ratings in India.
In its suggestions, Trai has proposed mandatory registration of rating agencies with the broadcasting ministry and has also put restrictions on cross-holding between the radio rating agencies and radio broadcasters.
“No single company/legal entity, either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings, shall have substantial equity holding both in rating agencies and broadcasters/advertisers/ advertising agencies,” Trai said in its recommendations. Substantial holding here means holdings of 10% equity or more. The regulator has not put a cap on the number of rating agencies.
Trai has proposed a 12-month deadline for existing rating agencies, from the date of I&B guidelines coming into force, to meet the rules prescribed by the government. Asked if TAM Media Research, the existing ratings agency, would comply with the norms, a company spokesperson said: “We will need to review the recommendations in detail first. We will work out our plan of action post that.”
Harshad Jain, chief executive of Radio and Entertainment, HT Media Ltd, was unavailable for comment. The firm operates FM stations under the Fever 104 and Radio Nasha brands. HT Media also publishes Mint and Hindustan Times.
Tarun Katial, chief executive at Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd, welcomed the suggestions, saying it is a much- needed step. “An effective performance rating system to evaluate radio audience measurement will eventually help the advertisers’ decision-making process,” he said.
Prashant Panday, chief executive at Entertainment Network (India) Ltd, which operates FM stations under the Radio Mirchi brand, however, was unhappy with the move. “We have always believed the government should not get into specific industry matters,” he said. “We are disappointed the ratings agency will have to be empanelled with I&B and will provide guidelines for ratings agencies, including methodology to be followed. We strongly oppose this,” he added.
The final guidelines for radio audience measurement will be prescribed by the ministry on the basis of Trai’s recommendations.