TV producer says companies charge to raise viewing figures

TV producer says companies charge to raise viewing figures

Television audience ratings in China are being manipulated by companies charging "promotion fees," a TV producer has claimed.

CSM Media Research, the only TV ratings provider in China, said yesterday it was investigating and collecting evidence to find and punish any companies or individuals involved in TV ratings scams.

Producer Wang Jianfeng told reporters that some television research companies had called him to say they could raise the audience ratings for his new series for a fee.

By paying 50 million yuan, Wang was promised that his 30-program TV series would be one of the nation's top 10 programs throughout the year, thus attracting more advertising.

According to a business contract published on Wang's Weibo microblog, one company said it could "adjust" ratings to 1 percent if the producer paid it 3,000 yuan for each episode of the series. For 7,000 yuan, ratings could be even higher.

"The 1 percent audience rating means that the series can be listed in the nation's top 10 audience ratings," Wang said.

According to the Beijing Morning Post, the company offered to raise the audience rating of one of Wang's programs for two days, free of charge, as a way to prove its ability in the business.

The ratings of the program were then raised to 1.14 percent from a previous 0.11 percent and dropped back to the lower figure a few days later.

The newspaper said this was not the first case that cast doubt on the accuracy of China's TV audience ratings.

In July 2010, Chinese media reported that several TV stations had acquired set-top boxes from viewers in order to manipulate viewing figures.

TV audience ratings are collected by third-party companies via a variety of methods, including telephone surveys, questionnaires and set-top boxes.

The ratings indicate the percentage of viewers in the target audience.

"Forging TV ratings is driven by huge profits. The forged data may help TV stations or producers to win more advertising income while it may also help professional companies earn big money by manipulating the data," Shi Tongyu, a researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the newspaper.

The Shanghai Morning Post said the latest ratings scam had fueled suspicions that CSM Media Research could be colluding with TV research companies.

In response, the company published an announcement on Saturday saying that it was "dedicated to providing fair ratings."

The company said that it would punish any company if it was found to be interfering in data collection.

The company published another announcement yesterday saying that it was collecting evidence to find and punish any companies or individuals involved in the scam.