“They want to keep data limited, skewed and inaccurate”

Prasar Bharati is not happy with key private broadcasters concertedly withdrawing from the TAM TV ratings system. It smells a conspiracy to prevent TAM Media Research from providing more accurate data. Last week, The Hindu reported Multi-Screen Media, which owns the Sony network of channels, Times Television Network, and NDTV stopped their subscription to TAM. Network 18 threatened to withdraw too. They cited its sample size, methodology, conflict of interest issues, and corruption as reasons. The advertising industry has, however, supported TAM.

Speaking to The Hindu, PB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jawhar Sircar said: “We are against the gaps in the TAM ratings system. But we are also against total vacuum and anarchy. Instead, we are supportive of any move by TAM to rectify its earlier measurement patterns.”

In recent weeks, Doordarshan channels have been doing relatively well in the ratings game. Mr. Sircar claims DD News has received the highest ratings in the English news category in prime time for several weeks; it is number 1 or 2 in the Hindi news category and has come third in the general entertainment category. This, the PB CEO feels, is partly a result of TAM having expanded its sample size and measured smaller towns with a population of less than a lakh, called LC1 towns.

“TAM was earlier covering only 8,000 households in big cities. But in recent months, it has made an attempt to capture viewership in smaller towns. There is a de-skewing happening, and this has got some broadcasters worried, for it shows that there is an India beyond Raisina Hill and Pali Hill with different preferences.” They, Mr. Sircar claims, want to “browbeat and bully TAM to go back to the old ways”.

Recent reports on industry websites have suggested that broadcasters are negotiating with TAM to stop reporting out of LC1 towns, on grounds that “there were lots of fluctuations in the data” and it was given “excessive weightage”.

PB also alleges it has been deliberately excluded from the discussions in the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), which it led for a long period, and the Broadcasting Audience Research Council (BARC), which is the proposed alternative measurement mechanism. This is the case, Mr. Sircar said, “despite us having 37 channels and 450 units”, and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting repeatedly issuing advisories to IBF to include PB.

A PB representative has been invited only once for the BARC meeting. Mr. Sircar said this has made the IBF a “private broadcasters club” divorced from real issues where channel heads are “using a legitimate body” for their ends.

The IBF, however, denied that there was any move to keep PB out of the decision-making process.

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