The decision of the News Broadcasters' Association to move from weekly to monthly ratings for all national news and business channels in Hindi and English, announced on September 16, has sparked a debate on the advisability of the move.
TAM Media Research, the company that conducts the television audience measurement, itself has reservations, though the NBA said it had had discussions with TAM."The NBA and TAM are in discussion on implementation of this initiative, which is being proposed to be introduced initially for a period of two years. The changes are expected to be implemented from October, 2011. Eventually the monthly format is expected to be implemented for regional news channels as well," NBA's statement said.
The association feels that coverage and reportage of news and programmes cannot always be linked to popularity or audience measurement.
However, TAM Media Research CEO LV Krishnan, said, "While we at TAM do understand the NBA perspective, our suggestion is that it is imperative for NBA to first discuss their proposal with other industry bodies/stakeholders like IBF, AAAI, ISA who are also users of the same central TAM database.
TAM will require written approvals from each of the member's industry bodies on the decision to the change in frequency of data reporting. Till we receive a formal overall approval from all stakeholders of the TAM database, no decisions on the change in current frequency of reporting will be taken."
TAM is not governed by the NBA. And media agencies too are uncomfortable.
Punitha Arumugam, group CEO, Madison Media, said: "How will delaying the TAM data by three weeks change any decisions, either by the editorial team or by advertisers? It will be the same data, so decisions will also be the same, only they will get delayed by three weeks. What's not okay will be the time delay: real-time decision on advertising will not be possible now."
Navin Khemka, executive vice- president of media agency Zenith Optimedia, said: "Viewership changes happen very quickly and for advertising, it's about big money decisions. Looking at viewership information four weeks later just won't do."
"Such a move would deprive advertisers of the opportunity to strategically position their advertisements in line with daily developments," said corporate and brand consultant Nabankur Gupta, founder, Nobby Brand Architects.
Editors of news channels, as members of the Broadcast Editors Association, are meeting on Monday to discuss the announcement and take a final decision. The association's secretary NK Singh, however, said that the channel news editors were principally in agreement with NBA.
"TAM's people meters for viewership sampling tend to be concentrated in large and commercially emerging cities," said Singh. "Ahmedabad, with a 30 lakh population has 195 TAM meters, while the entire Bihar, with 10.5 crore people, has just 160 meters. Of the 8,000 TAM meters in India, 2,658 are in the eight major metros. Viewership measurements are therefore skewed in favour of ‘spend worthy' cities, which advertisers are also interested in."
The complex issue does not look likely to get a simple solution soon.