The Ministry of Finance should not limit Company's Ability to Measure TV Ratings

In late February, the Revenue Service’s audit department (a legal entity of public law operating under the Ministry of Finance of Georgia) launched an inventory check of the company TV MR Georgia. The company is a licensed representative of Nielsen Television Audience Measurement and is the only entity in Georgia measuring television audiences – very important data for TV stations to attract advertisers.

During its inventory check, audit department representatives requested a list of all so-called people-meters – devices that are connected to TV sets which the company installed in several hundred urban households across the country for measuring peoples’ viewing behavior. Representatives of the Ministry asked TV MR Georgia to provide addresses of all households that have agreements with the company over the installation of the devices while the information is confidential.

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. 

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 arguing that the law obliges auditors to check the company’s equipment at the location.

TV MR GE has stated that it does not object inventory audit by the tax collectors but seeks to reach an agreement about the methodology to ensure that the interests of households, the company, and its clients and the whole advertising sector are not compromised.  

Last year, in the frames of G-Media program, IREX conducted an audit of TV MR GE’s measurement system, the result of which confirmed that the methodology fully complies with the best international practices and norms of audience measurement.
We believe that the Revenue Service should refrain from actions that will harm the development of 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.

It is also important for the personal data protection inspector to react to this issue, as the problem involves 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. 

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)

Transparency International Georgia

Media Development Fund (MDF)