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BARC advises news broadcasters to sort out dual LCN issue among themselves

MUMBAI: Caught in the crossfire between the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV, the Broadcasters Audience Research Council (BARC) India has distanced itself from the controversy by stating that the broadcasters should try to resolve the matter of dual LCNs (logical channel numbers) among themselves.

The audience measurement body also said that dual LCN is a common distribution strategy among various TV channels, particularly news broadcasters, to place their channels on multiple LCNs and across genres.

“Ideally these issues should be sorted among broadcasters themselves rather than dragging BARC India into these,” BARC said in a statement.

“The fact is that this is a common distribution strategy among various TV channels, particularly news broadcasters, to place their channels on multiple LCNs and across genres in the past, and they continue to do so even now,” it added.

The statement comes on the heels of English news channels affiliated to the NBA pulling out of BARC by removing the audio watermark from their feeds after the TV ratings agency released the weekly viewership data of Republic TV on Thursday.

NBA had requested BARC not to release Republic TV’s viewership data until the latter stopped using multiple LCNs, contending that not doing so would set a wrong precedent in the industry.

The letter to BARC came after the association had written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to take action against Republic TV for using dual feeds.

Without naming anyone, it also pointed out three instances when English news channels were present on multiple LCNs, based on information collected from various monitoring agencies.

One channel had placed itself across 64 distribution networks after rebranding. Another had placed itself across 16 networks during budget coverage, while one more channel was available across 12 networks during UP elections.

Even though it did not reveal the names of the channels, it is common knowledge that India Today TV during its rebranding had resorted to multiple frequencies to boost its viewership. In fact, it had toppled Times Now in one particular week thanks to its availability on multiple LCNs.

Similarly, CNBC TV18 and Times Now had taken to multiple frequencies, which led to a massive increase in their viewership in those weeks.

While stating that it does not have the mandate to monitor channel placements across the various DTH platforms/cable head-ends in the country, BARC said that it had provided data of multiple LCNs in the past too.

“In the past, we have measured multiple LCN instances of channels as per our policy, and reported them as one channel and the same principle has been applied to our data released yesterday. BARC India is not the regulatory body for resolving issues concerning multiplicity of LCNs for a channel,” it said.

It further stated that BARC measures viewership of channels based on watermark ID, and viewership of channels having the same watermark on more than one LCN gets aggregated and reported as a single channel and not multiple channels.

“We are clear about our position—we measure viewership of channels based on their unique watermark ID, irrespective of the platform the channel is available on or the number of instances within the platform. For channels having the same watermark on more than one LCN, viewership gets aggregated and reported as a single channel and not multiple channels,” BARC stated.