New Delhi: The information and broadcasting ministry has proposed that all future television set-top boxes be embedded with a chip that enables capturing viewership data. In a recommendation to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the broadcasting sector regulator, the ministry has sought that all “DTH operators should instal a chip in all new set-top boxes to record data about channels watched and their duration”. This proposal was squeezed into the volumnious DTH sector recommendations by the I&B ministry. However, Trai has asked for a separate and detailed proposal in this regard.
I&B ministry sources claimed the move to instal a chip in all new DTH set-top boxes was aimed at ensuring a wider and better measurement system of viewership preferences across the country. “This would help us in evaluating the TRPs of various programmes correctly,” a source added.
Trai, however, said in a communication to the ministry: “Regarding asking DTH operators to instal a chip in new set-top boxes, it is stated that this is a new issue and cannot be part of the reference. If MIB desires Trai’s recommendation on this issue, it may send a separate reference to Trai as per the provisions of Trai Act 1997.” Trai’s comments came in response to the I&B ministry’s recommendations on issues related to new DTH licences on a reference sought by the I&B ministry.
This move is being seen as an attempt by the government to end the monopoly of the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India, which measures the television audience prefrences in the country. BARC is an industry body guided by the recommendations of Trai and I&B ministry. BARC is involved in getting data/viewership prefrences to “give content owners unprecedented visibility into when and where their content is broadcast, who has viewed it”.
In the same recommendation, Trai has approved the I&B ministry’s proposal to allow the renewal of licences of only those DTH operators who have no dues outstanding to the government and are security-cleared. “This is in line with the intent of the Trai recommendations,” it said.