18 Nov 2017
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Wrong to drag BARC in multiple LCN controversy, says Sudhanshu Vats

MUMBAI: Broadcasters Audience Research Council (BARC) India chairman and Viacom18 Group CEO Sudhanshu Vats has said that the audience measurement body was wrongly targeted by the English news channels in the multiple logical channel number (LCN) controversy involving Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV on one side and other English news channels on the other.

Speaking for the first time since the controversy broke out, Vats said that multiple LCN was a bad precedent first set by the incumbent players themselves.

Sudhanshu Vats- Pic“To be frank, it was wrong to drag BARC into the issue in the first place. The second truth requires us to introspect as an industry. It is unfortunate that some members have taken issue with the use of multiple LCNs when many have themselves set the precedent for it—either as a promotional or as a defensive tactic,” Vats said.

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) had complained to TRAI against what it termed Republic TV’s illegal distribution tactic of placing channels on multiple LCNs to garner more eyeballs.

The NBA members had also pulled out of BARC after the latter released Republic TV’s ratings despite vehement appeal by the NBA not to do so.

He also lauded the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for stepping in and setting the record straight by asking multi-system operators (MSOs) to ensure that no channel is carried in more than one LCN.

The regulator has warned MSOs of action should they flout the regulation, which states that every channel should be placed only in genres specified by the broadcaster.

“The recent note from TRAI on the LCN issue (titled ‘Listing of TV Channels on Electronic Programme Guide) is a welcome step in the right direction. It provides all market players with much-needed clarity and clearly spells out the regulator’s view on the issue. Once again, TRAI has taken the consumer lens and ensured that she remains at the centre of the discourse,” he noted.

He also urged the industry players to take this opportunity to create a consensus internally, something which BARC India had also stated when the controversy erupted.

“While this should now abate given the recent direction from TRAI, moving forward, all market players must create consensus internally rather than squander away the valuable time of the courts,” he said.

Vats also said that BARC as a neutral measurement body has earned credibility and the watermarking technology has played a pivotal role in gaining the trust.

“As the dust settles on the matter, three key truths have been proven. The first pertains to BARC and its methods to measure what India watches. In that context, it is safe to say that watermarking is a modern, robust technology that has held the industry in good stead. In record time, BARC has earned a fair share of its currency of trust and all its stakeholders are committed to its mission, including the IBF, which backs it in entirety,” he stated further.

He also cautioned the industry against indulging in actions that might dent the credibility of the industry.

Vats also said total audience measurement will be the new norm in a multi-screen world.

“Finally, as we look towards a multi-screen future, total audience measurement [i.e. measurement of content consumption across devices including handheld, desktop, TV, etc.) will become the norm.

“In such an environment, all content players will look at innovative ways to increase their reach and sampling while focusing on delivering winning content. This is the new normal that we all need to prepare for. I’ve always thought of our industry as a large family with members who often quarrel but eventually come together. This time will be no different,” he signed off.