The recent controversy revolves around the fact that the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry has decided to take action against two reality shows– “Bigg Boss 4 “ and “Rakhi ka Insaaf”. Colors and Imagine, the 2 channels, which telecast these shows respectively, have been reprimanded. The Ministry has asked all the channels to air such kinds of shows that have adult content, only between 11 p. m. and 5 p. m. The decision can be seen as a step to correct the changing definition of prime time viewing. Earlier dedicated to family dramas, this slot has now been taken over by reality shows.
Such shows are currently seen as kingmakers (top TRP grabbers) in the television industry as these channels try to pull all strings to stay ahead in the game. Television Metrics in India have gone through several phases in which it fragmented, consolidated and then fragmented again. The different metrics used have been mentioned below- DART During the days of the single channel Doordarshan monopoly, DART (Doordarshan Audience Research Team) was the only metric available. This used the notebook method of recordkeeping across 33 cities across India. DART continues to provide this information independent of the Private agencies.
DART till this date is the only rating system that still measures audience metrics in Rural India. TAM & INTAM In 1994, claiming a heterogeneous and fragmenting television market ORG-MARG introduced INTAM (Indian National Television Audience Measurement). Ex-officials of DD (Doordarshan) claimed that INTAM was introduced by vested commercial interests who only sought to break the monopoly of DD and that INTAM was significantly weaker in both sample size, rigour and the range of cities and regions covered. In 1997, a joint industry body appointed TAM (backed by AC Nielson) as the official record-keeper of audience metrics.
Due to the differences in methodology and samples of TAM and INTAM, both provided differing results for the same programs. In 2001, a confidential list of households in Mumbai that were participating in the monitoring survey was released, calling into question the reliability of the data. This subsequently led to the merger of the two measurement systems into TAM. For several years after this, in spite of misgivings about the process, sample and other parameters, TAM was the de-facto standard and monopoly in the audience metrics game. aMap
In 2004, a rival ratings service, funded by a slew of American NRI investors, called Audience Measurement Analytics Limited (aMap) was launched. Although initially, it faced a cautious uptake from clients, the TAM monopoly was broken. aMap USP is that ratings are available as early as next day as compared to TAM’s timeline of next week. Broadcast Audience Research Council An even newer industry body called Broadcast Audience Research Council, seeks to setup an almost real-time audience metrics system. Plans for this was announced in march 2008 and work is said to be in progress. ) What is the methodology followed (could be with data collection, calculating the metrics, arriving at the ratings, etc. )? Traditional methods of ratings were through survey’s or diary entries. Presently, INTAM (Indian Television Audience Measurement) is the only electronic rating agency functioning in India. INTAM uses two methodologies for calculating TRP. 1) First is frequency monitoring, in which ‘people meters’ are installed in sample homes and these electronic gadgets continuously record data about the channel watched by the family members.
The ‘People meter’ is a costly equipment, which is imported from abroad. It reads the frequencies of channels, which are later, decoded into the name of the channels and the agency prepares a national data on the basis of its sample homes readings. 2) Second technique is more reliable and relatively new to India. In picture matching technique people meter continuously records a small portion of the picture that is being watched on that particular television set. Along with this agency also records all the channels’ data in the form of small picture portion.
Data collected from the sample homes is later on matched with the main data bank to interpret the channel name. And this way national rating is produced. 4) Regarding the recent controversy, what’s wrong with the new methodology? There are a number of issues with the existing method of measuring TRP— 1) There is a drawback in the above mentioned technique of frequency monitoring using ‘people meters’, as cable operators frequently change the frequencies of the different channels before sending signals to the homes.
It may be very misleading to read a channel according to a particular frequency even if the down linking frequency is same all over India. 2) At the same time it is important to understand that the ‘ratings’ do not necessarily provide qualitative evaluations of how much a programme is ‘liked’ or what programme content a particular audience truly demands. Ratings simply calculate numbers within the chosen sample households. The method of arriving at such ratings is therefore critical. 3) There has been an on-going debate on whether to and how to regulate TRP rating agencies in India.
At present, there are no guidelines or regulations for the method of determining TRPs, the minimum standards, the extent and demography of sample households, the equipment to be used, the technology to be adopted in data collection and the platforms which should be covered. Private rating agencies follow internal policies for their research, while some rating agencies follow industry codes for market researchers. Adherence to these codes, however, is voluntary. The absence of TRP guidelines and regulations, has therefore raised questions on the accountability of the research agency and credibility of the ratings and procedure followed.
Thus as per above mentioned points it is not certain if the programs on television that boasted of high TRP ratings, did actually get the increased viewership. It could just have been a distorted measurement of viewership that channels would have used for their benefit to earn more money by selling advertisement slots. This eventually dragged them into the regulatory trap and caused the controversy where Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had to intervene and set the appropriate rules.