BARC exhorts TRAI to strengthen existing TV audience measurement system

Arguing against multiple measurers, BARC advocates legal tweaks to fight data manipulations

MUMBAI: Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC), the country’s premier TV audience data measurer, has suggested to the Indian regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that having more multiple measurement and ratings mechanisms may not be “advisable” and could create confusion. Instead, it was better to invest further in the existing currency with the goal to make it more robust.

“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,” BARC India has said in its submission to a consultation paper on TV audience measurement overhaul  floated by the TRAI.

Making a case to further boost the functioning of BARC India, the organisation has said steps were needed to be taken to “increase the sample/panel through cost effective technologies” like sample return path data (SRPD).

“TV viewership measurement systems across most mature markets are carried out by a single agency. The existence of more than one rating agencies (and currency) will create confusion and will lead to inefficiency in the market. When there are more than one data sets for a same set of channels, it leads to ambiguity,” BARC India has argued.

TRAI had floated a consultation paper on ‘Review of Television Audience Measurement and Ratings in India’ on 3 December 2018 seeking feedback from stakeholders with a view to examine various aspects of the system, which is presently done by BARC India that is a joint venture amongst three industry organisations --- the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA). The original deadline for making submissions was extended on request from the stakeholders.

Arguing against promoting more competition in the audience measurement eco-system, BARC India has cited international media reports relating to this particular issue in the Philippines.
“Philippines presents a typical example of confusion and ambiguity in market due to presence of more than one measurement agency. TV measurement in the Philippines is conducted by Kantar Media Philippines and AGB Nielsen Media Research Philippines. Data produced by the two companies are often used by competing channels to claim leadership,” BARC India has argued.

Pointing out that accuracy of data can be ensured through larger panel that can, inter alia, be sustained by industry, BARC India has tried to put things in context by highlighting the US TV industry sustains a panel of 108900 individuals with a TV adex of $68 billion, while in India BARC India “runs a panel of 135,000 individuals with adex of approximately $4 billion”.

However, for a more robust system to be in place, which will also strengthen BARC India, the organisation has said “regulatory and government support” was essential and the support should involve “mandating digital platform operators (DTH and cable), as well as TV OEM manufacturers (of smart TV sets), to share return path data from samples to measurement provider”.

“To make data more accurate, there are steps required that go beyond the remit and domain of BARC. Legal and punitive framework to weed out panel tampering will go a long way in building further acceptance of our data,” BARC India has stated, reiterating its position on been backed by some legal teeth to fight attempts of data infiltrations and manipulation.

While admitting that a high-tech landscape like audience measurement needed to constantly evolve as newer consumption and distribution modes and technologies were emerging (for example, digital consumption, proliferation of OTT platforms, etc), BARC India has made it clear it was exploring SRPD, second generation metre with newer detection techniques, and other technological solutions for TV measurement.

“BARC India has also made progress in building capability to measure digital consumption with the goal of providing industry with cross platform and cross device video consumption: linear and time shifted, broadcast and digital. We have a strong foundation, established credibility and necessary transparency and accountability framework on which we can build further with emerging and suitable technologies,” the measurement organisation stated.

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