The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared a comprehensive regulatory framework proposed by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) for television rating agencies that includes procedures for registration, eligibility norms, limits on cross-holdings, methodology for audience measurement, sale and use of ratings and a complaint redress mechanism.

The issue has been under review for several years now with questions being asked about the accuracy of Television Rating Points (TRPs) on the basis of which the visual media seeks advertisements and their rates.

As per the new guidelines, which come into effect from the date of notification, all rating agencies, including the existing ones, will have to obtain registration from the I&B Ministry.

No single company or legal entity can either directly, or through its associates/interconnect undertakings, have substantial equity holding (10 per cent or more of paid-up equity) in both rating agencies and broadcasters/advertisers/advertising agencies.

Further, ratings have to be technology-neutral and should capture data across multiple viewing platforms including cable television, direct-to-home television and terrestrial television. The guidelines also stipulate sample size for rating. To begin with, six months from the date of notification the minimum panel size should be 20,000. Thereafter, the panel size has to increase by 10,000 annually till it reaches 50,000. Secrecy and privacy of the panel homes has to be maintained.

Besides an effective complaint redress system with a toll free number, the rating companies have to set up an internal audit mechanism to get its entire methodology audited internally on a quarterly-basis and through an independent auditor annually. And, all audit reports have to be put on the website of the rating agency with the government and the TRAI reserving the right to audit their systems and procedures.

There are also punitive provisions, including cancellation of registration and forfeiture of bank guarantees up to Rs. 1 crore, in the case of non-compliance.

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