OzTAM exists as an industry co-owned business created to collect, collate and deliver the nightly ratings data representing what people watched on TV. It’s a commercial entity, and as such owns the data it collects and has rights across it.

It’s also been a long held ‘arrangement’ that the TV networks would pass on the data in various forms to the many media outlets that write or talk about TV – like newspapers, radio outlets and the growning number of TV websites (including this one) – to allow them to analyse and discuss how the various shows and networks are performing. This arrangement has been in contravention to the licence agreement the networks have with OzTAM in paying for/receiving the data, however has been mutually beneficial and has been, until recently, pretty much overlooked.

That’s now all changed. For people like me who want to talk about and publish the ratings, we need to sign a recently created licence agreement with OzTAM to allow us receive and re-publish the data. We only get the Top 20 for the night, across the free-to-air primary & digital multi-channels, as well as subscription TV markets, but the big change is that we get it direct from OzTAM themselves rather than to rely on other means of receiving the data.

Michael Bodey rightly points out in The Australian today that it will lead to a lack of information, publicity and promotion for programs on ABC1 and SBS one (and while he says possibly even Network Ten, you’d have to agree it’s more likely Ten than Aunty as the latter now beats the former more often than not on a nightly basis). Who will think of the children?!

The toughest part is that both Bodey and OzTAM are right. The data needs to be available to those that wish to discuss it, however not at the cost of those who choose to pay for/subscribe to the service to get the data. From my perspective the Top 20 data is better than no data, but absolutely I’d seek more (Top 50 for the primary channels at least). OzTAM, for their part, have been very accommodating in working with humble bloggers like me by being willing to adapt what they offer us – including recently the national network shares for each FTA channel.

The sheer demand of the general public to see the data as published by OzTAM is representative of the fact we as a television-viewing audience want to be able to pass judgement on our own judgements ourselves. We want to draw our own conclusions. There will always be a need for solid analysis of the data and reviewing trends therein, however in an age when Wikileaks can offer State secrets up for all to see the need for hte level of secrecy surrounding the nightly TV ratings does seem to pale by comparison.

You can read Bodey’s article in full herem though somewhat ironically you will need a digital pass to do it as it’s behind The Australian’s paywal (free for the first 3 months).