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TRAI goes strict against TV monitoring agencies!

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out  with fresh recommendations on “Guidelines for TV Rating Agencies,’ the second time after the first one in 2008 which the Miniistry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) did not notify. However this time around TRAI has asked MIB to notify guidelines for the TV rating agencies to be notified within a stipulated time of two months.

As per the guidelines, TV Rating agencies will need to have a minimum of 20,000 panel homes for collecting data. Further this should increase by 10,000 homes every year till a figure of 50,000 is reached.

This time around TRAI has suggested a timeline after MIB’s inaction over the past recommendations. The regulator pointed out that it had examined the same subject in 2008 but rued that little or no action was taken on its earlier recommendations. Said Rahul Khullar, TRAI chief, “These are our suggestions that you have to implement this system. Whatever files you have to move, after taking a decision, announce them in two months... When we sent recommendations four years ago, nothing has been done till now. There must be some degree of certainty when we make a recommendation, you take action on it, reject the recommendations if you don't like it.”

TV ratings have been a contentious subject for long with channels often questioning their reliability. In its latest recommendations, TRAI suggested that panel homes should be selected from a pool which is at least 10 times the number of panel homes for audience measurement. 

It also suggested a voluntary code of conduct by the industry for maintaining secrecy and privacy of the panel homes. TRAI further suggested restrictions on substantial equity holding of 10 per cent or more between rating agencies, broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies. The rating agency should set up an effective complaint redressal system. 

In its guidelines, the regulator also favours self regulation of TV ratings through an industry led body like Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). It has also recommended that any agency that meets the eligibility conditions can apply and get registered with the I&B ministry for doing the rating work. The rating agency should get its processes audited internally quarterly and through an independent auditor annually and all reports should be posted on the website of the agency. 

TRAI also suggested penal provisions for non compliance of guidelines including financial penalty from Rs 10 lakhs to Rs 1 crore and cancellation of registration. All rating agencies should follow the guidelines and existing rating agencies should comply within six months time. 

TRAI in a statement said that “since 2008, the authority has been giving its recommendations or clarifications on implementing a reliable and transparent television rating system.” But for over four years little or no action has been taken by either ministry or the industry. 

It also said that since policy intent has not been translated in to action for too long, the time frame for implementation has now become a critical factor. Early implementation of guidelines, therefore, has become a necessity. As sector regulator responsible for overall development of the sector, the authority cannot be a mute spectator to continued inaction and may suo moto intervene in larger public interest.

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