| 28 Nov 2023
Industry-led body under govt guidelines to do radio audience measurement: TRAI

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Thursday (15 August 2016) said there is a need to prescribe “a soft touch, conducive, forward looking, growth oriented framework” for Radio Audience Measurement in India, which protects the interests of stakeholders.

The Authority has recommended a well defined framework in the form of guidelines for monitoring and functioning of the radio rating agencies. The guidelines for rating agencies will be notified by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry based on the recommendations of TRAI. It has said that there will be no ceiling on the number of rating agencies.

The guidelines shall mandatorily cover registration, eligibility norms, cross-holdings, methodology for conducting radio rating, complaint redressal, sale and use of ratings, audit, disclosure, reporting requirements and penal provisions for rating agencies.

This will be very similar to the existing policy guidelines for television rating agencies issued by the Ministry, wherein all rating agencies require registration from it in accordance with the terms and conditions prescribed under these guidelines.

The industry led body shall have equal representation with equal voting rights from the three Associations namely; Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI), Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI). It said these Associations will be truly representative of their segments and that membership rules will be applied in a completely transparent manner by the respective Associations.

Since All India Radio has a large geographical and population coverage and is not a member of AROI, representation of AIR should be ensured in the technical committee formed within the industry led body for guiding and supervising various radio rating processes.

The recommendations of the Authority are a result an open house discussion held in May after it issued a consultation paper on ‘Issues related to Radio Audience Measurement and Ratings in India’ early this year and received various responses from stakeholders.

TRAI said in its report that once guidelines are issued and implemented by MIB, these will be made applicable to all the rating agencies including the industry-led body.

In case the industry led body decides to provide rating services itself then it too will have to comply with the guidelines applicable to all rating agencies. In case, the industry led body engages a rating agency for carrying out the rating process and publishing the ratings, the agency will have to register itself with MIB and meet the guidelines. In case the industry led body undertakes the rating process itself or engages a rating agency, the field work, data collection and processing etc can be outsourced to third parties.

Similarly, an independent rating agency, carrying out the rating process, can also outsource the field work, data collection and processing to third parties. The guidelines will not be applicable to the entities which have been contracted to carry out the field work, data collection and processing.

In case, the industry led body or the rating agency outsources the field work, data collection and processing to an agency, they will ensure that there is no conflict of interests and the data should be protected from any misuse and discrimination.

No cap on number of radio rating agencies operating in India is being proposed, and this is being left to market forces.

Radio rating service should progressively include all radio stations including that of All India Radio based on the geographical area covered.

The Rating Agency should be registered as a company under the Companies Act, 2013. The Rating Agency should have, in its Memorandum of Association (MoA), specified rating services or market research or similar activity, as one of its main objects. The Rating Agency should not have, in its MoA any activity leading to conflict of interest, like consultancy or any such advisory role, with its main objective of rating.

The rating agency should have professional competence, financial soundness and general reputation of fairness and integrity in business transactions.

Any member of the Board of Directors of radio rating company should not be in the business of advertising, media buying and radio broadcasting. The rating agency should have a minimum net worth of Rs. 5 crore. Rating agency should meet the prescribed cross holding requirements.

The conditions mentioned for outsourcing will not be applicable in case the industry led body does the rating itself. However, if industry led body engages a rating agency for carrying out the rating process, then such agency shall meet the cross holding requirements.

The Authority recommends the following broad guidelines to arrive at a methodology for a radio rating system:

Rating agency shall put in place a methodology for radio audience measurement and rating process that conforms to the standards / norms prescribed for the ratings process and reflects consistent and internationally accepted rating standards.

b. Rating agency should submit detailed methodology to the Government (MIB) and also publish the same on its website.

c. The methodology should transparently provide details of rating process including measurement techniques, establishment survey for selection of the individuals, panel size, geographical and demographic representation and rollout framework.

d. Ratings process should ensure adequate geographic representation in proportion to the radio listening population and demographic distribution covering all segments like age group, socio-economic class, gender, working status, multiple delivery platforms, all states and urban & rural markets.

e. The weightages or data adjustment procedures utilized by a rating agency in the process of converting basic raw data to rating reports need to be based on systematic, logical procedures, consistently applied by the rating agency and defensible by empirical analysis.

f. In the event that a rating agency identifies an attempt to bias measurement results by a respondent’s submission of fabricated information, it should eliminate such cases from
analysis. In the event that such cases have been included in published data, the agency may be required to assess the effect on results and notify the users about the same along with indication of its practical significance.

g. Any shortcomings, deficiencies, limitations in the rating system needs to be clearly disclosed in the rating reports and also brought to the notice of users of the rating system.

h. Secrecy and Privacy of the individuals should be maintained.

In this regard the rating agency will issue voluntary code of conduct and processes to be followed, including penal provisions, to be followed by the stakeholders concerned with the ratings.

i. Rating agency should not include any employee or any other member of radio broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies in audience measurement sample/panel.

TRAI said no single company/legal entity, either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings, shall have substantial equity holding both in rating agencies and broadcasters/advertisers/ advertising agencies. No single company/legal entity, either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings, shall have substantial equity holding in more than one rating agency operating in the same area. Substantial equity shall mean equity of 10% or more of paid-up equity. Having a substantial equity holding in companies shall constitute a cross-holding. The cross-holding restriction will also be applicable in respect of individual promoters besides being applicable to legal entities.

A promoter company/member of the board of directors of the rating agency cannot have stakes in any broadcaster/ advertiser/advertising agency either directly or through its associates or inter-connected undertakings.

The rating agency shall have an effective complaint redressal system in place to redress that complaints made by the users of radio ratings. The rating agency shall provide the options for registration of complaints online, by email, by post etc. and provide details pertaining to the same on its website. The rating agency shall ensure that complaints are addressed in a time-bound manner. Time frame for disposal of complaints shall be declared by the rating agency on its website. The rating agency shall maintain records of all the complaints received along with their disposal. Details of the complaints generic in nature and their disposal shall be displayed on the website of the rating agency.

The rates for the rating services should be non discriminatory and transparent and the rate card for rating services shall be published in the public domain by the rating agency.

The data generated by the rating agency shall be made available to all interested stakeholders in a transparent and equitable manner. Use of such data will be governed by the terms & conditions specified by the agency providing rating data. The rating agency shall publish the categories of data/reports available for use along with terms & conditions on its website.

The following parameters may be mandated to be disclosed by the rating agency on its website for achieving transparency & compliance:

a. Detailed Rating methodology in clear terms including possible sources of errors, etc.

b. Details about the coverage in terms of geographical and other socio-economic representation.

c. Disclose, wherever necessary, possible sources of conflict of interests, which could impair its ability to make fair, objective and unbiased ratings.

d. Quality control procedures with respect to all external and internal operations which may reasonably be assumed to exert significant effects on the final results.

e. Rate card for the various reports and discounts offered thereon.

f. Ownership pattern of the ratings agency, including foreign investment / Joint Venture / Associates in the Agency.

g. Quarterly audit reports and h. Complaint redressal statistics

The rating agency shall annually report following parameters to the Government:

a. The rating agency’s equity structure, shareholding pattern including foreign investment / Joint Venture / Associates in the Agency. Any changes during the reporting period, if any, should be reported immediately.

b. Details of key executives and Board of Directors.

c. Interests of rating agency in other rating agencies/broadcasters/ media agencies/ advertisers / advertising agencies.

d. Coverage details.

e. Any other information and reports as may be asked for by MIB or the regulator from time to time.

The rating agency will set up an internal mechanism for ensuring that its internal processes and guidelines issued by the government (MIB) are being followed. This will be conducted quarterly and the report placed on its website.The rating agency shall also get their rating process/system audited annually by a qualified independent auditor. The auditors of rating agency shall state in their report whether proper mechanisms and procedures exists for credible rating system. The report of the independent auditor shall be placed on the website of rating agency. The cost of audit shall be borne by the concerned rating agency. The rating agency shall offer its systems/procedures/ mechanisms for auditing by an Auditor appointed by the government or any of its authorized agency or TRAI, should such a need arise.

Any breach of prescribed guidelines shall attract penal provisions. MIB may decide a suitable penalty based on the number of instances of non-compliances to the guidelines. Suitable opportunity will be given to the party before invoking penal provisions.

A time of twelve months, from the date of MIB guidelines coming into force, shall be provided to the existing rating agency to meet the guidelines prescribed by the government.
At the outset, TRAI said Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) which is an indicator of the number of listeners to a radio channels has become essential.

At present, radio audience measurement in India is conducted by AIR and TAM Media Research. AIR carries out periodical large scale radio audience surveys on various AIR channels. TAM Media Research conducts radio audience measurement on private FM Radio channels through an independent division, which is a joint service between IMRB International and Nielsen Media Research. It uses the paper diary method to measure Radio listenership with a panel size of 480 individuals each in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and listenership data is provided on a weekly basis.