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SA TV ratings war explodes

2013-06-27 10:20
Cape Town – A massive and nasty war about South African television viewership figures exploded into the open with both the SABC and which will jettison their membership of SAARF, the organisation responsible for compiling and tracking South Africa's television viewership, following an audit highlighting viewer panel problems.

The SABC and have both decided to withdraw from the South African Audience Research Foundation (SAARF) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) – the body representing broadcast media in South Africa – will do the same.

SAARF with the help of Nielsen Media Research compiles South Africa's TV viewership figures. That viewership figures, extrapolated from a panel of TV households, is the currency used to determine ad rates by broadcasters which in turn determine their biggest source of income.

South African broadcasters and the country's TV and ad industry is now in turmoil following an audit highlighting problems and according to broadcasters, serious shortcomings with the panel measurement which has been used.

The SABC and say they are still calculating the losses due to potential advertising income the broadcasters might have lost out on, but says it "is estimated to run at hundreds of millions of Rands".

The drama behind the scenes of which ordinary TV viewers are mostly unaware, started when an audit conducted by the French media research audit firm CESP – and asked for by South African broadcasters - brought to light problems with the TAMS panel. TAMS ratings are critical because that determines broadcasters' ad rates.

The SABC and say they experienced falling ratings in certain viewership groups – especially in the lower viewership brackets of middle income South Africans “who are actually the largest consumers of free-to-air television”.

“The audit showed that the TAMS panel failed to keep up with the evolving South African demographic profile, only partially measured certain homes, failed to balance the panel by individual living standards measurement, failed to properly maintain the household meters which measure TAMS households' viewership, and failed to manage the declining efficiency of the panel,” says the SABC and in a joint statement.

“The effect was that upper income television households – such as those watching DStv – became over-represented on the TAMS panel as compared to middle and lower income households who are underrepresented.”

’Under-representation of black TV viewers’

"In the South African context, this effectively translates into an over-representation of white television viewership and a serious under-representation of black television viewership," says the broadcasters.

"Not only is this morally unacceptable in South Africa in 2013, it has a direct financial impact on the free-to-air broadcasters who broadcast programming to the majority of South Africans. Of even more concern to the SABC and is that this state of affairs had been on-going for many years without any intervention from Saarf executive management.”

“It has become apparent to the SABC and that the concerns of free-to-air television broadcasters are not being taken seriously and have not received the urgent attention from Saarf which they demanded. The SABC and therefore fully support the NAB intention to resign from Saarf."

The SABC and now wants a new industry research body "which is sensitive to the fast-changing demographics of South Africa and which treats all South African audiences with equal importance".

"The SABC and firmly believe that this will be to the benefit of all stakeholders in the broadcasting industry as South Africa moves to a digital free-to-air market."

SAARF ‘extremely disappointed

Paul Haupt, the CEO of SAARF told Channel24 that the organisation is "extremely disappointed at the proposed resignation of the National Association of Broadcasters".

"SAARF has been the custodian of all industry audience measurement for 39 years and the measurement of television and radio has been an important part of its activities".

He says the statement made by the SABC and contains "serious inaccuracies and SAARF will respond in full to the allegations and inaccurate interpretation of the audit findings".
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