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BARC detects rating fraud attempts in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu

MUMBAI: For TV rating purists, there is a shocker. The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), India’s lone TV ratings measurement agency, has said that it has detected “ratings fraud attempts” in the Tamil Nadu, Chennai and Karnataka markets.

BARC has, however, not named the channels involved in this. In an email update sent to subscribers, the ratings agency stated: “BARC aggressively investigates on its own initiative and also responds to any claims it receives of fraud regarding BARC panel households.”

With Rs 25,000 crore of TV ads riding on the ratings of programmes and channels, this is a matter of grave concern. The need of the hour is for the industry to support BARC in its fight against those who want to unfairly influence ratings.

BARC informed its subscribers that it will make substantial changes in the reporting sample in the three markets.

This will impact the “robustness of the data” and “increase the degree of fluctuations temporarily”. But these are temporary spurts for the channels and cannot be sustained over a longer period.

“While these criminal acts may succeed in compromising some members of the BARC panel, however, these are temporary spurts for the channels which will not be sustainable over a long term,” BARC said. “They would need to be aware that once there is sufficient proof of malafide intent, BARC will raise these cases with the disciplinary council and could result in the suspension of publication of ratings of the suspected channels.”

BARC is able to immediately detect such attempts at viewership malpractice. Suspected panel homes are then quarantined.

“Any individual or group of households suspected of being compromised are immediately removed from reporting in the BARC weekly published ratings release,” BARC stated in its email to subscribers.

In March, BARC India had set up a six-member independent disciplinary council headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal to investigate and address complaints related to viewership malpractices and tampering of its measurement system. It also has a vigilance team to probe viewership malpractice-related complaints and investigate abnormal viewership data recorded from BARC’s panel households.

The BARC India Disciplinary Council (BDC) investigates and addresses complaints related to viewership malpractices and tampering of BARC’s measurement system. It also independently examines vigilance team reports. If culpability is clearly established, it can order punitive action appropriate to the level of offence. The action could range from written warning and a fine for the first level offence to suspension of viewership data for three months, leading up to termination of BARC India’s contract with the subscriber.

In November 2016, BARC India had decided to suspend the ratings of India News and Telugu news channels TV9 and V6 News; however, the broadcasters challenged the decision in Bombay High Court and got it overturned.

It had also teamed up with Kerala TV Federation (KTF) and filed a police complaint against certain individuals with the DG of Kerala Police for retrieving the addresses of BARC India panel homes and influencing them.

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