Medialogic case: Govt plans transparent TV ratings system
ISLAMABAD: Federal Information Secretary Muhammad Azam has said that the government is introducing a new transparent system of television ratings. “It will be mechanical and free from human interference.”
According to Express News, during a meeting at the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) headquarters, members of the Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting raised various questions regarding TV ratings as well as the dispute with Express News.
Imran Zafar Leghari of the Pakistan Peoples Party demanded that the members be first briefed about TV ratings and the system that generates them, following which Pemra authorities complied with the request.
After the information secretary briefed the members, it was clear to everyone present that the TV ratings company Medialogic has installed only 900 meters across the country and decisions about the advertising market of Rs7 billion are made on the basis of these meters, while these meters also decide what share of the advertisement campaign every TV channel will receive.
The meeting was informed that the government had taken the issue seriously, and proposals to prepare a clear and transparent system have been put together, the preliminary homework for which has been completed. The government will consult the Pakistan Broadcasters’ Association (PBA) and all the other stakeholders for further input on the proposals, as well as for setting up the new ratings agency.
The information secretary said that the new ratings system, which will be ready for implementation within a few weeks, shall be free from all errors. “The standing committee will be briefed once the system has been worked out.”
During the briefing at Pemra, Daniyal Aziz of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz demanded that action be taken against Medialogic.
The information secretary said 900 meters are not enough. “There should be a system similar to that of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited. It can be started with a sample of 10,000 and later extended to 100,000. He said the ministry will hold a meeting with the PBA to establish a mechanism that will be free from human interference and to avoid future disputes like that of Express News.”
He said that gauging the ratings of various channels through 900 meters isn’t fair. “The issue of the entire media industry being blackmailed by Medialogic with its 900 meters has been exposed.” Express News bureau chief Aamir Ilyas Rana told Express News that no one will be able to interfere with the new ratings system. “It will be fully automated. The government is seriously considering using the system already operating in 40 cities.”
He said Medialogic tried to blackmail Express News and demanded Rs450 million using its monopoly, but the bid was foiled when Daniyal Aziz demanded action against Medialogic. Pemra has also gone on the back foot. Pemra’s acting chairman, Kamaluddin Tipu, and other authorities said that the case has nothing to do with Pemra. “This is something that the organisations that issue advertisements need. Pemra’s job is to only regulate the channels. The dispute under consideration is a criminal case. The government’s advertisement budget goes up to billions and, thus, needs independent facts and figures regarding ratings of various channels. Rates in this case were set using its monopoly, stating that the private sector should pay Rs5,000 and the government should pay Rs300,000 per minute. Medialogic is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, not with Pemra.”
Aamir Ilyas said the new system will be built on the foundations laid down by Express News. “The private sector has also become alert. It has noticed that the whole country is being blackmailed on the basis of only 900 meters.” The standing committee was told by the information authorities that it has also been proposed that a committee be set up to monitor the ratings system.
The committee will have representation from Pemra, the PBA, advertisers, the information ministry and the public.
According to a TV channel, the information minister said that the responsibility to regulate the ratings issue lies with the government. “All the stakeholders will be consulted so that any mistakes committed in the past can be avoided. The government wants equal opportunities for all so that no stakeholder incurs any loss.”