The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and are terminating their membership of the South African Audience Research Foundation (SAARF) after an audit highlighted anomalies in its television viewing figure data.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the body that represents broadcast media in South Africa, is also set to withdraw from SAARF following the findings of French media research audit firm CESP. Free-to-air broadcasters SABC and say the errors by SAARF could have cost them hundreds of millions of rand in lost advertising revenue.

SAARF, working with Nielson Media Research, provides television audience measurement (TAM) data, extrapolated from a panel of TV households across South Africa. The figures provide the basis for TV advertising rates in the country.

“The audit showed that the TAMS panel failed to keep up with the evolving South African demographic profile, only partially measured certain homes, failed to balance the panel by individual living standards measurement, failed to properly maintain the household meters which measure TAMS households’ viewership, and failed to manage the declining efficiency of the panel,” said the SABC and in a joint statement.

“The effect was that upper income television households – such as those watching DStv – became over-represented on the TAMS panel as compared to middle and lower income households who are under-represented.”

“In the South African context, this effectively translates into an over-representation of white television viewership and a serious under-representation of black television viewership,” say the broadcasters.

“Not only is this morally unacceptable in South Africa in 2013, it has a direct financial impact on the free-to-air broadcasters who broadcast programming to the majority of South Africans. Of even more concern to the SABC and is that this state of affairs had been ongoing for many years without any intervention from SAARF executive management.”

Expressing his disappointment at the decision by NAB to pull out of SAARF, Paul Haupt, the organisation’s chief executive, told Channel 24 that SAARF will respond in full to “the allegations and inaccurate interpretation of the audit findings” by SABC and

“SAARF has been the custodian of all industry audience measurement for 39 years and the measurement of television and radio has been an important part of its activities,” he said.

Source: RapidTVnews _ Rebecca Hawkes