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FM players feel Radio needs a transparent body like BARC

While there are serious shortcomings in the current diary method, there is some serious effort by radio broadcasters for proper listenership data and TRAI has set the ball rolling in this direction

FM players feel Radio needs a transparent body like BARC

While there are serious shortcomings in the current diary method, there is some serious effort by radio broadcasters for proper listenership data and TRAI has set the ball rolling in this direction

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | September 21, 2016


It has been about a week that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released its recommendations for radio audience measurements (RAM) and ratings in India. While measurement has been of utmost importance for radio broadcasters and everyone related to it, the Authority finally thought of giving it a thought.

The recent recommendations broadly suggested forming of a new body or having changes in the existing ratings body, but not with a complete stake by one agency. It should have more stakeholders so as to come up with transparency and better outcome.

It seems that top bosses of radio players are already fed up with the diary method RAM has been using. For now, they don’t have a choice, but there has to be a time when there is transparency. What happened with the television ratings body is the similar case to what radio broadcasters want for the radio industry. While Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India is measuring television data, a similar body for radio is much awaited. tries to find out the problems and how they can be solved.

Tarun Katial Tarun Katial

On asking if there can be an industry body like BARC in radio, Nisha Narayanan, COO, Red FM, Tarun Katial, CEO, RBNL, Prashant Panday, MD and CEO, ENIL, and Abraham Thomas, CEO,  Radio City, feel that there is a strong need for a body like BARC in radio. All of them want a transparent measurement system, just like television has today.

This will only help radio as an industry to help its partners and advertisers get insights on their listenership and effectiveness of the medium. Katial believes that three things will come into place with this step. First is the expansion of cities, second is transparency and lastly industry participation.

On the other hand, Narayanan believes that the measurement body should be a three stakeholder one while the holding can be mutually decided. Panday too supports the ten per cent holding recommended by TRAI.

Thomas thinks, “Only when each of the parties subscribe and believe in this data will it give credibility to the industry and a better and more accurate representation of FM listenership.”

Prashant Panday Prashant Panday

It must be noted that the current diary system caters to only four metros; Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru while radio is present across urban and rural markets. Like Panday said, “RAM is a completely useless exercise. The sample size is a joke. With a 480 sample you cannot research Bandra, forget the whole of heterogeneous Mumbai. Even the research agency treats RAM as a low-priority study.”

Narayanan’s Red FM was one of the first radio broadcasters to raise the issue as a measurement body couldn’t just measure four metros. It was only later that the other players realised the shortcoming of the system.

Clearly, there are shortcomings in the current measurement system. The diary method is outdated and it does not give a true picture to the advertiser and stakeholders involved. Although radio broadcasters use it, it is possibly because they don’t have a choice. Thomas correctly puts it, “Well RAM works at a certain level but nothing much has been done either to make this data more robust since their inception in 2008. So although RAM still gives a better representation of FM listenership than any other syndicated research, it is time that radio ratings also evolve to the next level with the dynamic and evolving consumer.”

Nisha Narayanan Nisha Narayanan

The industry knows the shortcomings and is working hard towards bringing a better solution to the problem. One cannot just talk about problems without trying to solve it. It is not easy to get rid of all the shortcomings in a jiffy. A possible solution according to Narayanan is, “First of all, there has to be a consensus on the fact that we have to bring a system / methodology which can cover uniqueness of India’s diversity in terms of regional variety that we offer – culturally and geographically. We can’t adapt a methodology which is being used in many of radio advanced nations. While in short run, adapting a model is fine; we need to create systems that can capture or metro, fast growing urban and developing rural demographies.”

She added, “Post Phase III, we will be covering a vast area of India under FM network and opening many new possibilities for ourselves and our partners like advertisers and agencies. In the light of that let’s bring an advance method using best of electronic meters, diary method and IVRS based inputs – of course the sample size will have to be much bigger and well spread out.

Panday suggests another solution. He said, “The radio industry as represented by AROI must agree on what the scope of the research should be. If we need a large number of cities to be covered, then clearly it has to be a day after recall (DAR) system. If however, only a few big cities are required to be covered, it can be an electronic panel.”

Panday points out another important parameter which is the amount of spending that is required for research. The radio industry is at least 20 times smaller than the TV industry, so any BARC-like structure is meaningless. “We need a simple solution, not a complex one like BARC. Fortunately, radio listenership is habit forming, much like print readership is, and hence the DAR offers a simple solution to do the research across the country. Better still, if we can piggy back on IRS, then the costs can be relatively smaller. We prefer backing IRS,” he added.

Abraham Thomas Abraham Thomas

Factually pointing out a solution, Thomas added, “Research using questionnaires and the diary methodology typically capture top of mind awareness and not actual listenership but electronic measurement though more accurate are expensive. However, in the current scenario wherein radio is still a low involvement category contributing about 4 per cent of the advertising pie, the diary method is still a better method to gauge listenership. Maybe a combination of electronic measurement in larger markets and the diary method in other markets might be ideal.”

What industry members and the government body decide is something that we will soon see. Katial is positive that in the next one year a new ratings body will be in place for radio players.

Ashish Bhasin Ashish Bhasin

Opining on the current scenario in the radio industry, Ashish Bhasin, Chairman and CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network, South Asia, said, “The radio industry’s concerns are similar to what the industry and the government had with TAM in television, and that is how BARC came into being. Many of the concerns are similar to what the television viewership concerns were.”

Bhasin added, “I guess it’s a matter of having that part cleaned up, like no conflict of interest or cross ownerships of the ratings agency. However the fact is that the television industry being much larger in size could afford the ratings, which were quite expensive. I’m not sure what are the cost implications of this and whether it will be affordable by the radio ecosystem. I’m also not sure if BARC can do something for radio. I think radio media owners will have to drive a new measurement ecosystem or alternatively RAM will have to become complaint.”

Anand Chakavarthy Anand Chakavarthy

When asked Anand Chakavarthy, Managing Partner, Maxus for his opinion on this matter, he said, “Eventually any measurement has to be run by the industry body so that there is buy-in from all the stake holders, be it advertisers, media owners or media agencies. When RAM was created in 2006-07, it was a Quasi body of industry stakeholders coming together, predominantly the radio players coming together to work with TAM to create RAM.”

Throwing light on how the diary method came in use, Chakavarthy mentioned that when RAM was formed, there was a methodology used called day after recall (DAR) and globally this system was discontinued across many markets. Therefore, in 2007 RAM moved to a panel in the top four metros. The reality is this that, for any measurement system to have credibility and acceptability it has to have buy-in from more than three key stakeholders.

Therefore, a body which will actually oversee it is definitely essential which has five parties of all these stakeholders makes more sense.

Madhukar Sabnavis Madhukar Sabnavis

Giving a broad sense as an advertising agency, Madhukar Sabnavis, Vice Chairman and Director-Client Relations, Ogilvy & Mather, said, “At a broad level I think given that there is changing profile of consumers in India and an ever expanding base, it’s important for any measurement system to constantly be reviewed and evolved. Systems of past may not be relevant or as accurate today given that samples and town representation needs to be redefined. India is neither a mature consumer market nor a mature radio market and hence we must not take any rating methodology as fixed and given.”

Sabnavis added, “Both press and TV have gone through a review and maybe right to do so for radio too. What should be the form, the industry - media houses and media agencies alongside clients are best placed to decide.”

It seems that everyone is eagerly waiting for an evolved radio audience measurement system in India. As much as radio players want it, media agencies and advertisers are too waiting for the same. The TRAI intervention along with the efforts of radio broadcasters looks like some positive news for the industry.

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