IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 13th Oct 2020
It is never too late to be what you might have been.– George Eliot
EDITORIAL HUNT #185 :“The Despotism of TRP | UPSC”
The Despotism of TRP | UPSC
Srivatsa Krishna is an IAS officer.
The tyranny of TRPs
Who should regulate channels and how should they be regulated?
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Information : Communication : Technology
TRP system lately has been outdated.Why can’t India come up with connected bar-o-meters when almost everything is now down to digital. Comment -(GS 3)
- Self Regulations
- TRP and its nature
- The Way Forward
- UNDERSTANDING ECOSYSTEM : Before understanding the controversy, nay scam, let’s understand the ecosystem at play.
- JUDGES : The judges believe that they can self-regulate better than the National Judicial Appointments Commission ever can.
- JOURNALIST : The media, especially television media, swears by self-regulation.
- CIVIL SERVANTS : Energy regulators are mostly parking places for retired civil servants, few of whom have the guts to implement genuine ‘open access’ or tariff fixation.
- BUSINESS GROUND : Today TV is perhaps the single biggest window of entry into any home for any business.
- VIEWERSHIP : About 760 million-800 million individuals view TV in India per week.
- MARKET PENETRATION : While TV penetration in rural India is about 52%, in urban India it is about 87%.
- DTH SERVICE : DTH (Direct to Home) is used by about 70 million-80 million households.
- CABLE SERVICE : Cable is used by 60 million, and terrestrial by about 10 million-20 million households.
- WATCH TIME : About 550 million individuals tune into the TV daily and spend roughly 3.45 hours per day watching TV.
- REVENUE : Of the total revenue of about ₹66,000 crore, about 40% is attributable to advertising and 60% to distribution and subscription services.
- ADVERTISING MARKET : India’s total advertising market is $10 billion-$12 billion, of which digital advertising is about $2 billion, according to Dentsu in 2020.
THE NATURE OF THE GAME
- EXPLOITATION : What channels are not admitting is that the TRP system has been rigged for many moons now, by the channels themselves.
- OLD METHOD : In the TAM (Television Audience Measurement) and INTAM (Indian National Television Audience Measurement) days, motorcycle riders used to be sent to follow those from TAM to retrieve data/install meters and identify ‘confidential homes’.
- LOBBYING : Those homes would be given a new plasma TV, in vogue those days.
- INCREASING WATCH TIME : In those households, a particular channel would be turned on and put on mute on the new TV.
- RATING POINTS : Needless to say, TAM and INTAM gave different ratings reports to suit different clients.
- MERGER : Soon, they discovered that it was best to have the cake and eat it too, so they merged.
- NEW ORGANISATION : When BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) came about, it took over the flawed TAM meters which are now said to constitute about a third of its own metering.
- IRRATIONAL STATS : To make sense of the fact that about 22,000 bar-o-meters (or 44,000 households) are used to distribute digital advertising goodies worth about ₹25,000 crore sounds absurd.
- BAR-O-METER : So, a back-of-the-envelope, and not scientific, bar-o-meter equals approximately ₹1 crore of ad revenue, though the geographical coverage is tiny.
- DEVOLUTION : Even a cursory glance at the balance sheets of the top agencies would reveal these staggering amounts.
- BETTER RATING SYSTEM : It is no wonder that no advertising agency worth its salt wants to upset the applecart and look at a ‘better’ rating system.
- SELF RELIANCE : In today’s world of hyper-connectivity ,we are not self-reliant enough to manufacture bar-o-meters connected to the Internet securely .
- TRANSPARENCY : That way, measurement would be continuous and transparent instead of being discrete, periodic, and tamperable.
- PRIVACY : Netflix and YouTube not only know what you watched and how long you watched it, but also what else you may like and what you may ignore.
THE WAY FORWARD
- INTERDEPENDENT SOLUTION : But in India, we all disagree on what constitutes ‘independent’.
- APPOINTING REGULATOR : If a government of a particular ideology appoints a regulator, it will be almost certainly deemed partisan.
So, it really comes down to this:
- TRUST FACTOR : Who do we trust more, the private sector or the government.
- CHOOSING AUTHORITY : Do we want BARC ‘self-regulation’ or an independent authority established by a constitutionally elected government?
This opens up a Pandora’s box on who should regulate, how they should regulate, and who should regulate the regulators.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | The Despotism of TRP | UPSC