Government-owned Prasar Bharati, the country's largest broadcaster, had decided to sue the Television Audience Measurement (TAM) agency, citing an alleged inaccurate representation of data on Doordarshan's coverage, said an official. The legal suit would be filed in India within a week, the official added.
The decision came in the wake of New Delhi Television (NDTV)'s legal action against TAM early this month. The private broadcaster had sued TAM in a New York court over the agency's rating methods. TAM is a joint venture between Nielsen and Kantar Media Research. A spokesperson at TAM declined to comment on the issue.
The ministry of information and broadcasting recently wrote to TAM for a report on the measures taken to improve the ratings system, by increasing the coverage and third-party audit. It also asked Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to recommend guidelines to set the benchmark for other rating agencies.
In a recent statement, Prasar Bharati had said its board of directors had given in-principle approval to collate facts, seek legal opinion and hold consultations with the I&B ministry on the issue of alleged misrepresentation and under-reporting of data for Doordarshan by TAM.
Doordarshan has 37 channels, including DD Bharati and DD National, besides four allied channels such as Lok Sabha TV and Rajya Sabha TV. With its 1,415 transmitters, Doordarshan covers 92 per cent of the country through its terrestrial network. It is estimated that these would constitute a viewership of about 25 million.
Prasar Bharati also has DD Direct Plus, with a little more than 10 mn subscribers, amounting to at least 35
Going BBC way
Separately, Prasar Bharati has planned to replicate the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) model to boost its revenue stream, according to the official.
Following the government order that it would need to take care of its own operational expenses, which include administrative costs and software and programme related expenses, Prasar Bharati will need to increase its annual earnings. Spinning off the foreign channels and operating them as global broadcasters like BBC does could be a way forward, said the official.
However, any decision on this is yet to be finalised. "This will be discussed at the Prasar Bharati board meting next," added the official.
BBC primarily depends on advertising, sponsorship or subscription revenue. It is mainly funded by an annual television licence fee, charged from households for receiving and recording of television broadcasts, but the fee structure is set by the UK government under a multi-year agreement with the broadcaster.
Spain's TVE and New Zealand's NZTV are completely dependent on revenue from advertisements. In America, where the Public Broadcasting Service plays a marginal role, the organisation is funded by government grants and private donations.
The source said Prasar Bharati's current annual earning were about Rs 1,300-1,500 crore (Rs 13-15 billion) and the operational cost estimated at Rs 1,500 crore (Rs 15 billion). If the downtrend can be stopped, sustainability would not be an issue, said the official.
The government's decision to bear wages and augmentation costs is a great booster for Prasar Bharati, the official added.