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TV ratings in question

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, March 19
TVMR Georgia - a commercial company who monitors the ratings of Georgian television stations has been fined 800 GEL because its refusal to issue information about the families participating in the survey of television ratings.

TVMR GE, Nielsen Television Audience Measurement's official license was founded in 2004, and starting from January 1, 2005 continuously delivers measurement results to the Georgia TV market.

The representatives of the Revenue Office of the Ministry of Finance went to the company office on March 17, in the evening hours and demanded the list of the people who were involved in the survey of ratings of televisions.

In an attempt to protect confidential information, TV MR GE offered the Revenue Service to collect people-meters from households and have auditors examine the equipment at the company’s office. This option was apparently rejected by the Revenue Service, which argued that the law obliges auditors to check the company’s equipment at the location.

The director of the research company IPM, Gocha Tskitishvili, a partner of TV MR GE, claims that a representative of one of the TV channels met him confidentially three weeks ago, asking him to somehow provide information concerning the list of the families who had people meters installed on their TV sets.

“I explained that that it was violation of standards and law, and an unacceptable action. The reason of the action from the channel’s side was that the channel has a low rating despite huge investment. In the case the channel does not tell about the fact, I will name the channel in the near future,” Tskitishvili stated.

Several heads of TV channels in Georgia stress that controlling the ratings of the channels means controlling TVs and their financial aspects.

Deputy Director of Maestro TV, Ilia Kikabidze, states that in the case that the government really wants to control the channels through the ratings, it will become obvious in several months.

Head of TV3 Imeda Darsalia says that there are questions towards both the company’s actions and the Revenue Office. Darsalia states that it should be known how the company measures the ratings, how reliable the outcomes are and how many apparatuses are used in the process.

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International Georgia and Media Development Fund (MDF) stress that the request by the Revenue Service to provide the identity of households might put the credibility of the research results at risk. Providing access to the confidential information may result in influencing or manipulating measurement results.

“Without rating measurements, it is impossible to objectively assess the popularity of TV programs and to provide advertisers and advertising agencies with credible data, which may cause the field of TV broadcasting to collapse financially,” the organizations state.

They believe that the Revenue Service should refrain from actions that will harm the development of a free and competitive media market, which is a precondition of a media environment that is free from political bias and control.

“We call on the Ministry of Finance to agree to the alternative presented by TV MR GE and inspect the people-meters at the company’s office,” the NGOs statement reads.

They also emphasize that it is important for the personal data protection inspector to react to this issue, as the problem involves the personal information of citizens involved in the research.

“We call on the inspector to discharge his legal obligations and consult the Department of Revenue Service as well as the private company involved to ensure that personal information is protected,” NGOs state.

Head of the press service of the Revenue Office, Khatia Moistsrapishvili, states that material-technical inventory should take place on the areas they are located through the demand of the Minister of Finance, and the Revenue Office should fulfill their legal obligation. The officers of the Revenue Office define that the audit department had given a deadline until March 10th to the TV RM Georgia to issue the details of the subjects involved in the research.