New Delhi: The Association of Regional Television Broadcasters of India (ARTBI), an industry body of smaller regional news and general entertainment channels, has asked the government to allocate 33% of its annual advertising expenditure to smaller, regional TV channels.
The industry body also wants changes in the empanelment rules of the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), which handles the activities for the government, so that smaller channels become eligible for government advertising.
ARTBI, formed six months ago, claims it has 90 members, including regional general entertainment and news channels such as Sadhna News from Sadhna Media Pvt. Ltd, India News from Delhi-based Information Media Pvt. Ltd, Maurya TV Pvt. Ltd in Bihar and Jharkhand, besides Haryana’s PTC Network Pvt. Ltd to name a few. “The association was formed to give a voice to region-specific and medium and small-sized channels,” said Rakesh Sharma, the convenor of ARTBI.
The association representatives met minister for information and broadcasting Ambika Soni to discuss their concerns. Two officials from the ministry confirmed the meeting although they declined to be identified as they are not authorized to speak to the media.
The small broadcasters’ association has also proposed that DAVP should empanel small, region-specific channels. Currently, DAVP rules prevent channels with an all-India viewership share of below 0.02% to get empanelled. The clause eliminates several channels from the ambit of government advertising.
“Many of the channels don’t have ‘pan-India’ viewership as they target only specific audience groups and regions,” said Sharma. In the case of the print media, Sharma said, DAVP regularly gives advertisements to newspapers with small circulation even though a bulk of the commercials still go to leading national dailies. “Since the electronic media is growing, it’s time for government ads to come to some of the smaller, but equally important news channels,” he added.
N.K. Singh, editor-in-chief of Sadhna News and general secretary of the Broadcast Editors’ Association that represents news channel editors, said bodies such as ARTBI were essentially “interest groups” that represented aspirations of some of the smaller regional channels.
“Given that the electronic media is still a fairly new medium with several issues that need to be addressed collectively, some specific issues surrounding smaller channels aren’t always possible to be heard by other apex bodies,” said Singh.
The industry body also revived the issue of larger sample size for television viewership ratings. It has asked for more people metres in smaller cities, towns and villages to map viewership patterns. TAM Media Research, a joint venture between Nielsen Co. and Kantar Media Research, compiles data on programme viewership and market share of channels to determine rankings. The inadequate sample size makes it impossible for advertisers to see the potential of regional channels, especially the smaller ones, said Singh.
“The faulty TRP (television rating points) system has crippled the regional channels. It’s tough because our operating costs in many regions are high, but advertising is extremely limited as there’s no scope for measuring data,” he added. TRPs in turn determine the advertising revenue for channels. For instance, in Ahmedabad, which has a population of three million, there were less than 200 TAM people metres, Singh said.
TAM is the only company measuring viewership data that in turn determines the advertising spend of about Rs1,500 crore among news channels. News channels, which get about 15% of the total broadcast advertising budget, are considered a key segment for advertisers seeking male audiences above 25 years.
Currently, local channels survive on limited local advertising.
An official at DAVP said that while bulk of the advertising budget at 60% is reserved for the print media, electronic media is “fast catching up”.
“Spends on electronic media are increasing as the government is keen to advertise its achievements on television,” said this official. He requested not to be identified. “DAVP’s spend on electronic media is growing at 5-6% annually,” he added.
DAVP spent around Rs280 crore on television in 2009-10 and raised the budget to Rs300 crore in 2010-11. For print media, the budget was scaled up from Rs280 crore in 2008-09 to Rs400 crore in 2010-11.
“It’s difficult to reach out to smaller channels as our budgets get exhausted with the top four-five channels in news and general entertainment,” said the DAVP official. “We have tried to advertise in local cable channels, but it’s not worth it because of limited reach. Ministries prefer their audio-visual ads to be seen on the top three-four main channels in the entertainment and news genres.”