Is TAMs Time Up With DD Revamping Its Research Bureaus

New Delhi: | Updated: Oct 22 2002, 05:30am hrs
The audience research units of Prasar Bharatia network of 260 peoplereach where TAM has never gone. Nevertheless, the public broadcaster uses TAM ratings to sell its ware to advertisers. Reason: Its home-grown audience research is not acceptable to the market forces. And, that has triggered Prasar Bharati to work overtime to plug the gaps in its own research system.

TAM, the single currency deciding how the advertising budget worth Rs 8,000 crore should be distributed across TV channels, is not the best answer for the industry, particularly DD, according to Prasar Bharati officials. Besides other loopholes in the TAM system, DDs main grudge is that the system doesnt reach where its hardcore audience is, for instance in rural and remote areas of India.

To set things right, Prasar Bharati claims to be working overtime. Even as there are indications that an alternative to the TAM system is on its way, DD has taken the initiative of organising a first of its kind national workshop for its audience research units. Other steps will followone such will involve getting school students to give relevant data to DD.

Purpose of the week-long workshop in the capital where representatives of 16 audience research cells from different parts of the country have gathered: To energise Prasar Bharatis audience research cell and introduce it to the tools, mechanisms and technologies of global research modes. Says DD Director General S Y Quraishi that the effort is to motivate the research cell to perform better.

Till recently, it has been a marginalised and sidelined lot. Dr Quraishi cites an example. The audience research cell has been working in isolation, with no interaction with the marketing team. Also, no representative of the research cell ever attended any of the officers meetings at Prasar Bharati. So, quite logically, the work of the research team did not meet the market realities, and DD resorted to TAM subscription a couple of years ago.

Before that, DART (DD Audience Research TV Ratings) has been the system in use at DD, till market forces demanded either TAM or INTAMthe two currency at work at that point.

But, once again the public broadcaster is ready to shun outsourcing, as far as the rating mechanism is concerned. And why not, ask DD officials. Majority of the staff of the Audience Research Cell are post-graduatesin Statistics, Economics, Sociology or Anthropology. Says Deputy Director Audience Research in Hyderabad B R C Reddy, Almost everybody in these cells is underutilised.

So, will DDs Audience Research Cell be an alternative to TAM DD officials play safe and dont want to comment on that one.

But they say that DD will be a catalyst in bringing about another rating systemwhich would be need-based, with wider coverage, more appealing than the current system and equipped to guide channels for mid-course correction. The research advisory committee of DD, along with other experts in the industry, are together in doing a rethink on an alternative rating system, indicate sources.

And although Prasar Bharati is talking of meeting the higher objectives linked to a public broadcaster through its audience research units, ultimately the proof of its success will lie in attracting advertisers, admit officials. The challenge will be in feeling the real pulse of the people.

As an audience research official points out, viewers often talk about their fondness for information and news-based programmes, but in reality they are hooked to entertainment stuff!