Tuesday, 5 June 2012

An Open Letter to BBM (Bureau of Broadcast Measurement)

March 26, 2012
Elmer Hildebrand,
Chair, BBM,
1500 Don Mills Rd.,
Toronto, Ontario
M38 3L7

Dear Elmer:
As a current member of BBM, and past member of BBM’s Board, I wish to formally complain about certain business practices of BBM and would like to suggest changes in BBM’s constitution as well as the make up of its Board of Directors.

A client of CMRI’s, XXXX, was a BBM TV member 3-4 years ago and received analyses of BBM data from CMRI. At some point XXXX’s need for BBM data ceased. In error they neglected to inform BBM that they would not be renewing their BBM membership by the required July 1st date, sixty days before the start of the next broadcast year. BBM assumed they were renewing and sent an invoice for the next year of membership. I understand that subsequently several exchanges of correspondence took place between XXXX and BBM with the former explaining each time that they had not signed a membership agreement for the year in question, nor received any BBM data and that unfortunately the 60-day notice requirement had gone unnoticed by their administration officers.

This year XXXX had a requirement for BBM data. When they approached BBM to renew their membership, XXXX was told by a BBM representative that unless they paid the fees for both the current year and the year that they did not receive BBM data, they would not be permitted to join BBM. Denying access by refusing 2012 membership seems an ill-advised business practice, since XXXX will not join BBM at all under these circumstances. Many members of BBM would presumably ask why BBM would turn away additional revenue.

I am aware of a substantial number of other TV producers who have had similar or related problems gaining access to BBM data. When this particular case arose I came to the realization that BBM’s constitution and Board is not representative of the TV industry in 2012. In my view the current tri-partite make-up of BBM representing broadcasters, advertisers and agencies, all of whom have voting rights and Board membership, does not reflect the basic components of the TV business today.

When BBM came into existence broadcasters were responsible for the great majority of the content on their stations. Today, independent TV producers account for a large proportion of the content on all private and public TV broadcasters. Yet, BBM’s outmoded constitution relegates producers to associate membership and they are denied voting rights and Board membership. Given the central role they now occupy in the broadcasting business, it only seems fair and equitable that producers be allowed full voting membership and a voice in the policy and future direction of BBM.

Broadcasters pay the majority of BBM survey costs and they pay to measure the audience to all programs in their schedules, including those of independents, yet the independent producer cannot readily access BBM data. Many independent producers are being denied access to BBM data due to BBM policies such as the ‘negative option’ issue experienced by XXXX and especially the relatively high fees for membership. Advertising agencies and advertisers pay relatively very little, basically token fees in the case of advertisers, to access BBM data and in my view independent producers should pay less, or a nominal fee given that broadcasters have already paid to measure the audience to their programs. Most broadcasters will not share audience data with independent producers. Some share limited data reluctantly. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that broadcasters negotiate licence fees with the producers who might benefit from knowledge about the audience performance of their shows. The licence fee paid by broadcasters is usually only a fraction of the actual cost of programs.

The current situation finds the great majority of Canada’s TV producers unable to properly study and understand the public’s response to their programs (which are usually funded by tax dollars either from tax credits, the Canadian Media Fund or publicly-funded broadcasters). In my view this is a major public policy issue that has been hidden from view due to the decentralized nature of the independent production industry. I would like to put to the Board a proposal that would amend the constitution and offer full BBM membership to independent TV producers and at least three of the eighteen positions on the Board. (Broadcasters currently have 12 of the 18 board seats and are therefore in a position to control BBM policy and fees.) I believe this would go a long way to ensuring that producers’ interests and those of the public they serve are in future reflected by BBM.

Thank you and I look forward to your response.

Barry Kiefl,

Note to readers: BBM responded on April 4th, saying that the proposal for Board representation "is not an option under our current by-laws. We are going to review this process in the near future and will present your request to the appropriate Committee at that time."

1 comment:

  1. Hi Barry,

    It sounds to me like I was that XXXX, as the story is quite similar to my experience.

    As I recall, the cancellation clause was impossible to respect. I believe we had to give a sixty day notice. What made it impossible was that the notice could not be given at more than 60 days.

    I had repeatedly told their rep that I wanted out. And yet those notices were discounted because they exceed 60 days. By the 59th day prior to the end of the contract, they then told me that they required a 60 day notice. UNBELIEVABLE !!!

    Had to get lawyer involved. I believe they have since then changed that policy. It still left a very bitter taste as I could have found more fairness from a street gang in a dark alley.