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BARC ropes in Justice Mudgal to head BARC’s new wing to tackle malpractices

MUMBAI: Putting the heat on unfair practices, TV viewership measurement company BARC India has set up a six-member independent disciplinary council headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal.

The decision to strengthen the transparency and credibility of its measurement system comes in the wake of complaints against some television channels trying to tamper BARC’s panel homes to rig ratings.

The BARC India Disciplinary Council (BDC) will investigate and address complaints related to viewership malpractices and tampering of BARC’s measurement system.

The BDC will be headed by former chief justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal. It also has former Mumbai police commissioner & DGP Maharashtra D Shivanandan and independent technical expert Paritosh Joshi as its members.

Viacom18 Group general counsel and company secretary Sujeet Jain; GroupM CEO South Asia CVL Srinivas; and GCPL AVP corporate legal Pankaj Phadnis are the other members, representing the three stakeholder bodies, IBF, AAAI and ISA.

BARC India has already set up a vigilance team to probe viewership malpractice-related complaints and investigate abnormal viewership data recorded from BARC’s panel households.

The disciplinary council will independently examine vigilance team reports, and where culpability is clearly established, it will 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.

BARC India has also re-drafted the terms of the contract it signs with its subscribers. This has been done to address limitations in the current end user licence agreements (EULA) and strengthen legal provisions that will allow the BDC to act against viewership malpractices. The updated EULA will soon be circulated to all BARC India subscribers.

“The BDC is a step forward in our commitment to ensuring transparency and eradicating this long-existing malpractice of panel tampering. We hope to build further credibility in our processes and systems under guidance of Justice Mukul Mudgal. The independent council will also benefit from the advice of a seasoned law enforcement expert like Mr Shivanandan and the continued support of industry stakeholders,” said BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta.

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. The matter is under investigation by local authorities.

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