Publish viewership data on website or face action, TRAI tells BARC India

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has directed Broadcasters Audience Research Council (BARC) to immediately release the viewership data for the past weeks on its website. The regulator has also warned the council of appropriate action for non-compliance.

Recently, BARC India had decided to stop sharing TV viewership data publicly in light of the implementation of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) new regulatory framework.

According to a PTI report, the TRAI issued a direction to BARC India asking it to furnish compliance by 25th February, failing which, appropriate action would be initiated under various sections of the TRAI Act.

The regulator noted that BARC India has modified its Fair and Permissible Usage Policy on 14th February even after being repeatedly asked by the authority to not stop publishing of rating data and viewership data on its website during the migration to new regulatory framework until and unless explicitly permitted by the authority.

The BARC India decision is in contravention of the direction of the authority dated 21st December 2018 and 14th January 2019.

The regulator observed that BARC had submitted that disruption caused by transition to the new regime could prevent consumers from accessing the channels of their choice, thus not giving fair and true picture of TV consumption in India.

However, the TRAI contended that it would not be appropriate to stop publishing the viewership data of channels as these changes were an outcome of consumer choice and real reflection of market changes. The regulator opined that the decision of BARC India to withhold the data cannot be justified by any yardstick.

It noted that BARC India has failed to furnish any cogent reason for not publishing the rating and viewership data and that such action on part of BARC India reflects poorly on the creditworthiness of the data published by them.

TRAI reminded BARC India that it is governed by the provisions of the TRAI Act and thus required to comply with orders, regulations, and directions issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and TRAI from time to time.

“Now the authority hereby directs Broadcast Audience Research Council to immediately release and publish viewership data for the week ending February 8, 2019 and weeks subsequent to it, on its website without any further delay and not to stop it in future also without explicit instruction/direction from the authority or Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” TRAI directive said.