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`FM players keen on fool-proof system'

Nithya Subramanian

NEW DELHI, July 8

PRIVATE FM radio companies are not taking chances. After the TRP fiasco related to television viewership data, the new radio companies have decided to come together and work out broad parameters for generating listenership data.

Various radio companies along with market research agency AC Nielsen ORG-MARG held their first meeting last week.

A senior radio industry official said that while it would take a few months for the system to take off, the industry wanted one that was foolproof.

"Till now, there was only All India Radio (AIR) and hence listenership numbers were not important. Whichever player wanted to use radio as a medium to advertise would go on AIR. But with the privatisation of FM radio, companies will need listenership numbers to attract advertising," said a senior industry official.

Initially, listenership ratings would be tracked in Mumbai, but other metros would be covered as and when operators roll out their services. "Eventually, there has to be all-India coverage once the FM takes off in other centres," he added.

Meanwhile, the market research agency has already started a pilot study, called Radio Audience Measurement, to get listenership patterns in Mumbai, the first city where five private operators have commenced operations.

However, the critical issue is the methodology to be used. The two common systems are the diary system, where preferences are recorded in a diary every week, and the recall system, based on personalised interviews. A third system called the watch meter method, which involves recording frequencies in a watch, is considered an expensive method.

Industry sources said that unlike television, culling such data for radio would be a tricky issue. "India is still a one-television household and so it is relatively easy to track the channels or programmes being watched. With prices of FM radio sets falling by the day and more takers for the product, determining the target audience would be even more difficult," said the industry source.

Media planners said that so far ad agencies had been relying on qualitative data for understanding radio listenership patterns. Also, data from the National Readership Survey (NRS) are also used. "But, there is need for quantitative data," said a top Delhi-based media planner.

Radio's share in the total advertising budgets of companies is likely to grow from a meagre two per cent to five per cent in the next three years, while the medium itself is poised for an annual growth rate of 10-12 per cent.

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