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'Name and shame delinquent channels'

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MUMBAI: Media buying and planning (advertising) agencies and brands reacted strongly or cautiously when it came to commenting on famous yet delinquent television channels suspected of wrongdoing by India's only TV ratings points (TRP)  body. Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the only television audience measurement body in India, temporarily suspended the review of viewership of three news channels. BARC had communicated to all the broadcasters that ratings for India News, TV9 Telegu and V6 News were suspended for four weeks owing to suspected mala fide practices.

This decision may have had a bearing on advertising on the channels in question. Some industry experts were direct and forthcoming in their reactions, others were cautious, while some chose not to comment on the issue.

Requesting anonymity, a senior media planner told Indiantelevision.com that the decision could have a mixed impact on the advertising revenue of the channels. There would be companies who believe in a particular channel since a long time. They may not get swayed by this temporary phenomenon. Companies who might want to launch a national campaign may take a channel's current ratings into account before making their decision. Then, there are regional advertisers who want to see the effect of advertising on the ground -- they may not take the BARC review into account at all. There would be some advertisers who would want to wait and watch for a while -- 2-3 weeks before taking any decision.

Dentsu Aegis chairman Ashish Bhasin lauded the BARC decision not to review certain errant channels for a period of time. "It is a bold step taken by BARC to name and shame the mischievous entities." It sends out a warning message to the channels to behave, and will act as a deterrent for other possible mischief-mongers that could spoil the purity of the currency for a Rs 20000 crore annual TV advertising business in India, Bhasin said.

About the impact on advertising, Bhasin said that the reputation of the errant channels would be affected owing to the suspension of review. "Although I am unaware of which channels were involved in what kind of wrongdoing, the channels would be disadvantaged due to the BARC action. In the medium to long term, the action would prove to be detrimental to the channels vis-a-vis advertising because the client decides to put his money on the basis of clear feedback and seeks value for every pie invested," Bhasin added.

Some experts were rather vocal about change in their approach. "I will certainly not recommend these channels for my clients," an Initiative Media (formerly Lintas Media) business director told Indiantelevision.com.

The business director said she would rather advise other substitute (surrogate) channels so that her clients do not suffer. She agreed that the BARC India decision may not directly impact regional and local brands, but, she said, media planners who would draw up annual national strategies for their respective clients would certainly keep the BARC India's suspension decision in mind.

However, some  client-companies were rather cautious. HDFC Life senior executive vice-president, marketing, analytics, digital & e-commerce Sanjay Tripathy said: "The channels concerned are denying any wrong-doing at this point. However, if the channels are found guilty of any wrongdoing as suggested in media reports, it is only fair then that they face the consequences. Prima facie, we believe before taking such a stance, due process would have been followed by the authorities by BARC (India) and should wait to this matter to be clarified before taking any hasty decisions."  

For the sake of an independent and unbiased article, IPG Mediabrands CEO Shashi Sinha chose not to comment since he chaired the technical committee of BARC India.

"Advertisers who do not utilise the services of media buying agencies may continue to advertise on the errant channels," said Madison World chairman Sam Balsara. "But, advertisers who take the help of agencies that use scientific methods of calculating GRPs (gross rating point) would over a period of time keep away from such channels," he added. To a question whether advertisers would mind the temporary suspension, Sam said, "They would and they should."

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