TV broadcasters against any change in BARC India’s shareholding

MUMBAI: The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) have stated that the current shareholding of Broadcasters Audience Research Council (BARC) India should not be made to change as it gives representation to all three key stakeholders.

In their submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the two industry bodies have contended that BARC India is performing well and all the major stakeholders are adequately represented in the council.

TRAI had issued a consultation paper ‘Review of Television Audience Measurement and Ratings in India’ with the objective to solicit the views of stakeholders on regulatory initiatives/measures to be taken to make TV rating services more accurate, and widely acceptable.

In its submission, IBF said that the broadcasters are responsible for creation and nurturing of the TV viewing market with significant sustained efforts and they are also significantly directly impacted based on TV ratings.

It further stated that IBF, whose members manage 400+ channels and about 90% of television viewership across country, must have a shareholding in BARC which is commensurate with its importance for the market.

“Hence, the current shareholding should not be made to change,” the IBF said.

While concurring with IBF’s views on the shareholding part, NBA suggested certain measures to further enhance the credibility and neutrality of BARC.

In order to ensure a larger degree of transparency and neutrality, the NBA has suggested that a reasonable representation from each TV genre/broadcaster should be acceptable.

It further stated that BARC should consider establishing a Grievance Redressal Forum where complaints /disputes relating to ratings can be dealt with in a fair and objective manner.

“In cases where channels are found to be guilty of any manipulation/tampering, BARC ratings for such channels should be suspended and necessary actions should be taken against such channels. Stringent penal action should be taken for any violations,” it submitted.

On the question whether there is a need to promote competition in television rating services to ensure transparency, neutrality and fairness to give TAM rating, the IBF submitted that a huge TV market like India can have more than one agency providing audience measurement if the business environment is able to support and sustain the existence of more than one agency.

However, it stated that the same should be left to the marketplace to determine, independent of any external interference. It also pointed out that in several countries only one agency provides the audience measurement service, for e.g. BARB in the UK and Auditel in Italy.

NBA submitted that there is no requirement for multiple rating agencies to enter the TV ratings sector particularly as BARC is a joint industry body, where all major beneficiaries of rating (Broadcasters, Advertisers and Advertising Agencies) are represented. It added that the industry should work to strengthen the lacunas in the system/technology/methodology applied by BARC.

It also said that existence of multiple agencies may promote competition but at the same time it may also lead to confusion, difficulties, and regional fractions as well as invite concerns related to the comparative accuracy of the final data/ratings supplied.

The NBA submitted that the output from different agencies can differ widely as all agencies will be based on a sample of households. “The sample estimates and different studies/analysis may produce different results as in the case of print media where NRS and IRS came up with varying results at the same time leading to major issues in the advertising industry.”

Both the organisations submitted that the current audience measurement technique used by BARC is time-tested and widely accepted to reflect correct viewing patterns.

NBA said that the methodology, Watermarking technology used by BARC is largely appropriate, is an internationally accepted system of measurement and is an up gradation from the previous technology used by TAM.

IBF noted that BARC is operating on New Consumer Classification System (NCCS) methodology which while working satisfactorily. The two bodies stated that there is scope for improvement.

The foundation said that segmenting audiences based on NCCS classification does not adequately capture the diversity in our audiences and their viewership preferences.

Increase in sample size: The current sample based measurement needs to be reviewed. The present 33,000 household sample size, which will increase to 50,000 in the next couple of years. Ideally a move towards RPD methodology would result in reduction in relative error and improve accuracy

Both IBF and NBA stated that the return path data (RPD) must be used to make the sample size bigger and more accurate. BARC has reportedly tied up with DEN Networks, Siti Cable and Airtel Digital TV for measuring TV viewership using RPD through set top boxes (STBs).

The NBA has suggested that there should be a mandate to release data separately for each of the following category of platforms DTH, HITS, IPTV, and Digital Cable with DD Free Dish being a separate category under Free DTH.

In order to reduce manipulation of panel home data , IBF has suggested that panel manipulation should be recognised as a serious offence and any individual or a company undertaking it should be punishable by law.

NBA, on the other hand, has suggested that BARC must permit quarterly or six monthly. Besides, there should be third-party audits on a regular basis of BARC system and the auditor must be chosen from the panel of broadcasters. The findings of the audit must be transparent. It also stated that the panels installed in the homes must be replaced every quarter.

On its part, BARC India has submitted that the present Shareholding pattern of BARC India ensures adequate representation of all stakeholders, and this maintains neutrality and transparency of TV ratings.

“As mandated in our articles of association, our Core Technical Committee has equal representation from all 3 constituents. All methodological decisions of the Technical Committee are by consensus. Any modification to the recommendation of the Technical Committee can only be done by more than 75% voting majority of the Board members.

This ensures there is no bias in the system,” BARC said in its response to TRAI.

It also said that having more than one ratings service / currency would not be in the interests of industry, and hence is not desirable.

“Instead of increasing number of ratings agencies, it would be advisable to invest in the existing system and make it even more robust and accurate. For this, steps need to be taken to increase the sample/panel through cost effective technologies like Sample RPD (SRPD),” it added.

On checking data manipulation, BARC India has suggested a legal and regulatory framework that defines “manipulation of panel homes” and provides for punitive action against defaulters is urgently required to control this activity. “Thus, a separate law and guidelines governing this would need to be brought in by MIB & TRAI,” it stated.

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