Radio operators sought a credible, transparent and representative audience measurement system to enhance the quality of their content and their advertising revenue at an open house organized by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The current measurement system provides data on popular channels and programmes to private FM radio companies, advertisers and ad agencies. The data is provided by TAM Media Research through an independent division, RAM or Radio Audio Measurement, which is a joint venture between research firms IMRB International and Nielsen Media Research.
TAM Media Research maps FM radio channels only in the top four radio markets—Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s radio division All India Radio (AIR) too carries out periodic audience surveys in 65 cities of its own channels.
Trai had issued a consultation paper in March inviting comments from all stakeholders on issues related to radio audience measurement and ratings. The comments were invited from radio service providers, including AM (amplitude modulated—short wave and medium wave) and FM (frequency modulated) operators, industry bodies like Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI), advertisers and radio listeners.
Owing to the expansion in the FM radio market after the phase 3 auctions, the regulator and the radio operators expressed the need to expand the number of towns and cities mapped in the current measurement system. In its comment uploaded on the Trai website, HT Media Ltd, which runs Fever 104 stations, said, “Due to expansion in existing and new markets and innovation in technology, the scope of improvement is being felt. The listenership of FM radio on mobile phones should be added while measuring data. “In addition to the existing 4 towns, measurement needs to be followed in other top cities, at least the cities having 6 or more frequencies,” it added. HT Media is the publisher of Mint.
Prasar Bharati which runs AIR also said that the radio markets will progressively grow after the roll-out of new licences and suggested different rating agencies for different regional radio markets. “Unlike TV, radio has a local/regional market,” said a Prasar Bharati official who declined to be named. “AIR should be made a part of the technical and advisory council of the industry-led body (if recommended by Trai) deciding the design and implementation of the measurement and rating system,” the official said.
Others questioned the credibility of data from TAM Media Research, raising concerns over its reporting methodology. “The measurement criteria of TAM Media Research are not representative enough for the operators to enhance their content and for the advertisers to make an informed decision. RAM is not able to project the actual number of listeners... The panel size and the coverage are limited to just four cities,” said Sanat Kumar Mishra, national marketing head and vice-president at Music Broadcast Pvt. Ltd, the promoter of Radio City.
TAM, however, pointed to a lack of interest on the part of the radio operators for subscribing to its data. “We have asked the operators, time and again, to fund our expansion but nobody has come forward. There are limited subscribers for the data as well. TAM is far away from breaking even,” said Tejas Naik, manager, key accounts, at TAM Media Research.
According to Trai, radio broadcasting sector revenues are expected to reach Rs.3,950 crore by 2019, from Rs.1,720 crore in 2014. Though the sector is expected to garner only 5% of total media and entertainment advertisement revenues by 2019, it is important to frame a transparent system as operators solely depend on advertisements for revenue generation.
“The regulator will analyse all the comments received from various stakeholders and will soon come up with the recommendations that would protect their interests,” said a Trai official.