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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Group to Monitor TV Ratings

The Press Ministry and leading television channels with the exception of NTV agreed this week to set up a new organization called the Media Committee, which will monitor television ratings and thus have serious impact on each channel's advertising revenues.

Organizers said the Media Committee's main role is to check the measurements carried out by Gallup Media — the only media research company in Russia with a system of people meters, or boxes placed on TV sets to monitor which programs are watched in a sample of households.

Various television channels have complained that Gallup Media has cost them money by willingly or unwillingly manipulating ratings.

Alexander Ponomaryov, general director of TV6, raised the issue last month during President Vladimir Putin's meeting with media executives, and Putin instructed the Press Ministry to facilitate the formation of a watchdog.

"The market has developed and the question arose: Where is the public control of Gallup Media's actions?" Press Minister Mikhail Lesin said Tuesday at a news briefing.

He said that the Media Committee is a "noncommercial partnership" in which the ministry is a co-founder on par with television channels and advertising associations. The committee will commission research and serve as a platform where competing television companies can iron out their differences over ratings "instead of fighting with Gallup Media under the table," he said.

Lesin said he regretted that NTV backed out at the last minute and refused to sign the charter Monday. "NTV is looking today for any opportunity to be in opposition to the authorities," he said.

Vsevolod Vilchek, head of NTV's polling service, said Tuesday that NTV supported the idea of forming the committee, but he did not sign the charter because members where not given the right to veto key decisions such as the methodology of the research.

If small towns are measured, NTV's share is certain to drop compared withstate-owned ORT and RTR, whose distribution networks are wider. Vilchek argued that big cities such as Moscow, where purchasing power is higher, should be better represented in the sample.

"Without a consensus, the state-owned channels and the Association of Advertising Agencies, where Video International plays first violin, will determine all the decisions and that could be to our detriment," Vilchek said.

Lesin, who founded Video International, said the sample should include towns with a population of 100,000 and more and not just the 300,000 and more used by Gallup Media. He also said that with ORT and RTR on board, the Media Committee can change the current situation without NTV, which can join later.

Vladimir Grodsky, general director of Gallup Media, said the formation of the Media Committee is a "natural, civilized" development. He said in a written statement that the company had a "positive" attitude toward the prospect of being audited by the committee, as well as toward plans for the committee to hold a tender for media research in the future.