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Agencies feel need to speed up BARC

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MUMBAI: The need for speeding up the existence of a transparent television audience system under the aegis of the broadcasters and the advertising and media agencies is gaining ground after NDTV‘s lawsuit has made allegations against TAM Media, the single TV ratings measurement currency in India.

"BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) needs to probably be expedited. It will not be a supervisory but a governing body. The clients, the broadcasters and the agencies will be represented in that," said Aegis Media CEO South East Asia Ashish Bhasin.

The shareholding of BARC was announced in March 2012 with the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) holding 60 per cent equity and the balance 40 per cent being equally shared by the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI). But it has still to become operational and the draft incorporating the memorandum of agreement (MOA) and the Articles of Association (AoA) finally approved and signed.

Several industry professionals from the advertising and media agencies said that a body overseeing TAM was the need of the hour.

A senior official from a leading agency emphasised the need for a body like BARC as TAM has become akin to the Holy Grail or Bible when it comes to TV ratings. “I have always wondered how can you base your decisions on a single ratings agency that is so powerful to decide the buying of over Rs 110 billion of television advertising spend. I have found the peoplemeters and the sample size inadequate and there have been allegations of tampering. It defies rationale under these circumstances if we are not to speed up BARC.”

Another top official from a different agency pointed out that the best way is to review data simultaneously as it gets thrown up so that errors can be kept in check or rectified timely. The anomalies can, thus, be investigated promptly. If there is any mistake, genuine or of malicious intent, it can be set right,” he remarked.

Media agencies do not depend entirely on TAM when they do their buying plans for their clients. “We also look at other factors and along with our internal research and some element of gut feel we decide on how we can best get to the target audience of the brand. Advertisers and media agencies don’t trust the TAM data blindly before putting monies behind the channel," a media professional said.

Is monopoly of a single ratings currency bad? Bhasin does not think monopoly is the issue. "The issue is if somebody is not doing the job properly or deliberately doing it wrong. That is what has to be monitored and controlled,” he said.

Another senior media executive, however, disagrees. According to him, this may be a good time for other research agencies to offer services compatible to TAM and provide the industry with an alternative.

Bhasin, though, feels that it is a better option to have the industry’s resources pooled in one place and a monitoring body structured.

Most of the media executives agree on one thing: to make BARC operational with much thought and detailing.

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