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Is it time to reform RAM for radio?

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India seeks industry views on the need to regulate the radio audience measurement (RAM) and rating, just as radio broadcasting in India is poised to move to the next level. The TRAI calls for written comments on revamping RAM by April 11, 2016

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | March 17, 2016

traiTelecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has brought out a consultation paper, seeking the views and comments of stakeholders (read the burgeoning tribe of FM and AM channel radio broadcasters in India and their advertisers) on the need to restructure the radio audience measurement (RAM) and ratings in India.

The TRAI aspires to prescribe a framework for radio rating system in India that is conducive to growth, forward looking and addresses the concerns of both the broadcasters and advertisers on the channels, while simultaneously ensuring quality in content for the radio audience. The main objectives of the consultation paper are to:

(i) Ensuring growth of the radio broadcasting sector

(ii) Ensuring transparency in radio audience measurement and ratings

(iii) Ensuring greater diversity and better quality content

The TRAI has sought written comments on the consultation paper from stakeholders by April 11, 2016. Counter comments, may be submitted by April 25. The comments and counter comments will be posted on TRAI’s website - www.trai.gov.in.

At present the State broadcaster, the All India Radio (AIR), which is also the market leader, determines RAM for itself, while the rest of the industry depends on TAM ratings. The 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. Listenership data is provided on a weekly basis.

The All India Radio was the sole radio broadcaster transmitting programmes in AM and FM frequencies in India till 2000. At present AIR has 415 radio stations (both FM and AM) that cover almost 92 per cent of the country by area, reaching out to more than 99.19 per cent of the country’s population.

Radio broadcasting services were opened to the private sector in 2000, when the Union Government auctioned 108 FM radio channels in the VHF band (88 –108 MHz) in 40 cities in Phase-I of FM radio. Only 21 FM radio channels became operational, though and migrated to Phase-II in 2005. In Phase-II of FM radio, 337 channels were put on bid across 91 cities, with a   population of three 3 lakhs or more. Of the 337 the channels, only 222 channels became operational. At present, 243 FM radio channels are operational in 86 cities.

The advertisement revenue of the media and entertainment (M&E) industry was Rs. 41,400 crores in 2014, contributing approximately 31 per cent to the total M&E revenues. The advertisement revenue is expected to grow at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 14.5 per cent to reach Rs 81,600 crore by 2019.

The television and print media sectors now corner most of the advertisement revenue (approximately 80 per cent of the total revenues) spent in India. Even though the radio broadcasting sector accounted for only four per cent of the total advertisement revenue in 2014, the revenue earnings of the radio broadcasters are expected to grow.

The total advertising revenues of the radio broadcasting sector depends on the advertisement duration and the rates per unit time. The duration and the advertisement rates depend on the numbers and demographics of the radio listeners.

There is, therefore, a compelling need for radio audience measurement (RAM) to measure the popularity of a channel or a programme for the advertisers and advertising agencies. A perfect RAM would help advertisers select the right channel or programme for their target listeners. A perfect RAM would also help the radio channels improve the content of their programmes.

The number of people listening to radio is expected to rise further after the completion of Phase-III of the FM radio expansion, enhancing the reach of advertisers to larger segments of the Indian population. The overall expenditure on radio advertisements too is likely to increase in tandem with the growth of the radio industry.

The TRAI feels that the increase in the number of listeners only augments the necessity of a credible, transparent and representative RAM system to generate radio ratings that could be recognized world over. The free-to-air service provider is solely dependent on advertising revenues. Advertising revenues are directly related to the popularity of radio channels.

Advertisers and advertising agencies, therefore, require a RAM that accurately indicates the popularity of a channel or a programme, to help them select their target audience. Some private stakeholders have raised concerns about the inadequate coverage and panel size of the radio audience measurement (RAM) conducted by the private rating agency now.

They have also expressed concerned about the methodology used for the measurement. It is pertinent to mention here that transparency, trust, credibility and acceptability of the radio audience measurement ratings are a key to the authenticity of the tool.

The TRAI consultation paper now seeks to address these concerns and calls on radio broadcasters and other stakeholders in the business to share their viewing on perfecting the radio ratings in India. The comments and counter comments may be sent, preferably in electronic form, to M. Kasim, Advisor (B&CS)-III, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, on the e-mail:

advbcs@trai.gov.in

or vk.agarwal@trai.gov.in.

Advisor (B&CS)-III may be contacted for clarification and information at the following telephone numbers:

+91-11-23237922, Fax: +91-11-23220422.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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