China to Launch Standardized TV Ratings System

Jackie Chan Beijing Political Conference 2013 H

The new system is aimed at bringing data in line with international standards and addressing complaints that viewership data in China is manipulated.

Chinese regulators have set up the country’s first standardized domestic TV ratings system in a bid to standardize data in the fast-growing market, which industry folks complain is rife with corruption.

The new system will come into effect in July and is aimed at bringing Chinese ratings data in line with international standards and dealing with repeated complaints that viewership data in China is manipulated.

The Standardization Administration of China said in a statement that Chinese TV ratings should be consistent with international general standards and that the methods of surveying and the technology use should keep pace with the global norm.

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“At the same time, the ratings system will have to match the specific situation in the Chinese TV ratings market, ensuring the smooth implementation of TV ratings surveys,” the statement said.

There are regular complaints from within the TV business that samples of viewers can be “polluted” by offering bribes, rewards or using other means.

In one example given in a Global Times article, families with the “right” views were chosen to make sure the ratings came out the way a production company wanted, meaning quality TV shows were often canceled, while bad shows made primetime because of falsified ratings.

The report also outlined the basic scope and the standards that TV ratings surveys should follow, providing working rules of operation for the TV ratings agencies.

To ensure the objectivity and fairness of the information gathered, data providers must strictly keep the information of sample households secret and prevent the same household from being influenced by a third party. Data users should also comply with professional ethics; they cannot compete with others in the same industry in an improper way and cannot access the information or interfere with the viewing behavior of sample households.

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Ratings agencies must also follow the regulatory requirements of the supervisory body and an international quality standard and must subject themselves to an audit by a third party to ensure the survey to be scientific, regulated, objective and fair.

At the same time, a designated reporting system will be set up.

While China is generally acknowledged as the world's biggest TV market and a potentially enormous source of revenue for foreign content providers, evaluating its real size has always been difficult, because of concerns over how data is collected.

During the annual parliament meeting in Beijing, top director Feng Xiaogang complained: “TV ratings are all fake”, and there is a widespread belief here that ratings are often manipulated.

The planned new ratings standards immediately caused debate on China's social media outlets.

A commentator on Chinese web portal Sohu said the new rules were welcome, but feared they might only function as a recommendation and not as a law.

On social media platform Weibo, a person using the name Guanggao zhu zazhi wrote: “The problem is who will implement this and who will supervise this. How much effect will a recommended national standard have in the face of greedy people? Let’s say it is a compulsory standard, if the cost of violating it is too low, do you expect that fake TV ratings will stop all of sudden?”

A person using the name Songyang 1020 also questioned the new system's usefulness, but said, “It is better to have one than none."