The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released its recommendations on issues related to radio audience measurement and ratings in India. Audience research has occupied the center stage within a rapidly evolving mass communication scenario. Audience measurement is essential since advertising is the sole source of revenue for FM radio operators and advertisement revenue of the radio broadcasting sector is directly linked to listenership of a radio channel. Therefore, the advertisers and advertising agencies require radio audience measurement, which indicates the popularity of a channel or a program and assists them in selecting the right channel or program at the right time to reach the target audience.

The present system of radio ratings in India appears to have certain deficiencies that have been highlighted by stake holders at various forums. Continuance with an inadequate radio rating system is likely to hamper the growth of radio industry as financial decisions are largely influenced by radio ratings.

In order to address the concerns of the stakeholders, the TRAI had suo moto issued a consultation paper on issues related to radio audience measurement and ratings in India on March 15, 2016. Written comments and counter comments on the consultation paper were invited from the stakeholders by April 11, 2016 and April 25, 2016. All the comments received were posted on TRAI's website. Subsequently, an open-house discussion was held in Delhi on May 18, 2016. The Authority after carefully examining various issues emanating from the written submissions of the stakeholders and open-house discussion has arrived at its recommendations.

The Authority has adopted a light-touch approach and recommended a regulatory framework for radio rating system in India that is conducive to growth, forward looking, and addresses the concerns of the stakeholders while protecting the interests of the consumers. Under this framework, guidelines for functioning and monitoring of the radio rating agencies will be notified by the MIB based on the recommendations of TRAI. All the rating agencies including industry-led bodies have to adhere to these guidelines for providing rating services.

Salient features of the recommendations are:

  • Guidelines for rating system to be notified by MIB.
  • Any agency meeting the eligibility conditions can apply and get registered with MIB for doing the rating work. No cap on number of rating agencies has been prescribed.
  • All rating agencies including industry-led bodies are required to comply with the guidelines.
  • Guidelines will cover registration, eligibility norms, cross-holding, methodology for conducting rating, complaint redressal, sale and use of ratings, audit, disclosure, reporting requirements, and penal provisions.
  • Voluntary code of conduct by the industry for maintaining secrecy and privacy of the listeners is included in the rating process.
  • Restrictions on "substantial equity holding of 10 percent or more" between rating agencies and broadcasters' advertisers/advertising agencies have been prescribed.
  • The rating agency to set up an effective complaint redressal system.
  • Data/reports generated by the rating agency to be made available to all interested stakeholders in a transparent and equitable manner.
  • The rating agency to get its entire methodology/process audited internally on quarterly basis and through an independent auditor annually. All audit reports shall be put on the website of the rating agency.
  • Penal provisions for non-compliance of guidelines.
  • Twelve months' time has been given to the existing rating agency to comply with the guidelines.