Television

BARC India mulls client contract review & enforcing opt-out clause

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NEW DELHI: India’s TV audience measurement company Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC India) is contemplating a complete review and legal overhaul of contracts it signs with subscribers and also enforcing the opt-out clause mentioned in agreements with an aim to streamline the whole measurement process and safeguard against increased litigation.

Indian broadcast industry sources, while confirming such a move is afoot, indicated the thinking within BARC India is that to bring about more transparency in the ecosystem and further boost credibility of the viewership audit, it’s imperative to legally “review and amend” the way in which the contracts are phrased so there’s more clarity.

The sources pointed out that under the present agreement terms, BARC India can opt out of providing measurement and ratings services to any subscriber, especially those that it sees as “compromising” its position in the industry.

According to the wordings of its sample client contract, BARC India shall have the right to terminate an agreement, of course by giving written notice, if a subscriber “commit(s) an act, which brings BARC into public disrepute, contempt, scandal (and) ridicule”. This clause is amongst several other such conditions stipulated in an agreement that BARC India signs with an organization that starts subscribing to the paid, full and detailed services of the ratings audit firm.

Industry sources, familiar with wordings in an agreement, said a legal interpretation states BARC is not obligated or under compulsion to provide or continue to provide its ratings service to a client. “In fact the onus of renewing the annual contract lies on the (paid) subscriber and, while BARC has so far been proactive in renewing contracts under the terms of the agreement, it can leave it up to the clients to seek renewal,” a source explained.

BARC India, which is  promoted jointly by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA), in November 2016 suspended for four weeks the review of viewership of three TV news channels. Reason: alleged activities aimed at manipulating viewership.

The news channels concerned subsequently moved the Bombay High Court that immediately granted them temporary relief, while one of the channels also sued BARC India for defamation, seeking financial damages. The appeal is still in  the high court in Mumbai, the jurisdiction area for a legal dispute involving BARC India.

The review process of contractual obligations, deliverables and suspension is being undertaken by BARC India  at a time when it prepares to rollout its digital measurement services some time later this year or early 2018. It is also set to expand its people meter sample in the next few months.

For this, it had sought global expertise through a process that has elicited interest from several existing measurement firms, including Nielsen. BARC India replaced TAM India, a joint venture between Nielsen and WPP-owned Kantar Media, for viewership measurement in India little over two years back.

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