New Delhi: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is probing public broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s complaint against TAM Media for alleged unfair trade practices in tracking television viewership in the country.

The investigation has been ordered by the regulator after finding prima facie evidence of TAM violating competition norms.

The CCI on 5 March directed its investigation arm director general (DG) to probe the complaint. Prasar Bharati had contended that TAM was owned and controlled by advertising agencies, thereby having a vested interest in generating data which suited its owners, according to the regulator.

As per the national broadcaster, as a result of the unfair practices adopted by TAM, its viewership was being largely under reported thereby causing great financial loss besides affecting the reputation.

TAM Media Research is a joint venture between Nielsen (India) Pvt. Ltd and Kantar Market Research.

Within the television industry, about 34% of revenue comes from advertisements. Generally, advertisers place their advertisements on various channels based on viewership as measured by TAM. TAM measured viewership in the form of TRP/TVR (television rating points/television viewership ratings). For this purpose, TAM was using the electronic gadget “people meter" connected to TV sets in selected sample households.

The CCI said TAM had limited its surveys and viewers measurement only to the larger cities with a population of one lakh or more.

According to CCI, the sample size of 8,000 homes in a vast country such as India, with a population of more than 1.20 billion was also minuscule and misleading.

“In a country as vast as India with diverse culture, different languages, where the urban population was only 30% and rural population about 70%, not installing people meters in rural areas, prima facie, amounted to restricting use of technology of measuring viewer’s choice to the prejudice of customers (in this case Doordarshan)," it said.

CCI said that providing people’s meter in rural areas amounted to discrimination to Doordarshan and other similar channels, if any, catering to the needs of the rural areas. Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio networks, filed the complaint in November 2012.