Regulators

In TRAI-BARC India stand-off, flashes of regulatory overreach

TRAI recently sent a show-cause notice to BARC India

https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/smartcrop_800x800/public/images/tv-images/2019/04/04/trai.jpg?itok=wc2T5apI

MUMBAI: One of the most intriguing side acts during the implementation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI) new tariff order has been the sector regulator's face-off with TV audience measurement firm BARC. The latest flashpoint in this impasse involved TRAI issuing a show-cause notice to BARC.

At the core of this issue is TRAI’s insistence on BARC publishing its weekly findings on its website and the latter's sustained inaction on that front.

While BARC continues to supply data to advertisers, broadcasters and agencies, it has stopped publishing weekly ratings of shows and channels on its website due to vagaries linked to the rollout of the new regulatory framework for the broadcast sector. 

The decision was taken after due and appropriate deliberations to protect the interest of trade, subscribers and consumers, BARC had said.

TRAI’s argument, however, is that data at any given point in time reflects ground realities and there’s no valid reason for not putting it out in the public domain. TRAI, according to sources, believes consumers will use the ratings on the BARC website to make channel selection.

With this stand-off now stretching into its third month, it’s important to understand what really is at centre of this controversy. Is TRAI right in directing BARC to publish the data or is the TV ratings agency justified in taking the position it has on the issue?

To answer these questions, one must look at what BARC and TRAI have been entrusted to do as industry watchdog and TV audience measurement body respectively 

Like any regulator, TRAI’s mandate is to devise and implement policies factoring in market realities for growth of the sectors it oversees. Ensuring free and fair regulation that is pro-consumer and aimed at sending positive signals to the investment community should be hallmarks of any policy it conceives. The new tariff order and consultation paper on improving BARC’s measurement system are two fine examples of responsible regulatory behaviour. These initiatives are aimed at benefiting consumers and growth of the TV broadcasting and distribution business at large.

Encroaching into the operational domain of an independent and self-regulatory body, or even privately held entities for that matter, is a measure any regulator should try and avoid. Therefore issuing multiple directives and a show-cause notice to BARC could be categorised as a regulatory misstep by TRAI.

BARC is a joint industry body founded by stakeholder bodies that represent broadcasters, advertisers and media agencies.

Its job is to own and manage a transparent, accurate, and inclusive TV audience measurement system. It is mandated to ensure efficient media spends and content decisions in a highly dynamic and growing television sector. Hence, publishing weekly web data (for non-subscribers) isn’t actually a deviation from its standard operating procedures or a move away from conducting business as usual.

In fact, publishing ratings on the website found no mention in the Amit Mitra committee’s recommendations, endorsed by TRAI post consultations with the industry, to form joint industry body (BARC) in 2013. These guidelines were then notified by the MIB in 2014, resulting in the formation of BARC.

BARC India had registered itself with the MIB and was to conduct its operations on a self-regulatory model. Applying this fundamental tenet to the current scenario, BARC is well within its rights to not publish the weekly data on its website as long as it continues to service its subscribers.

Based on evidence in the public domain, BARC neither seems to have flouted any norms nor hampered the seamless functioning of the broadcast or advertising sector in any manner. In short, BARC not publishing its weekly data on its website, pre or post the tariff order implementation, bears no impact on the operations of industry stakeholders. TAM, BARC’s predecessor for 15 years, too, did not follow the practice of publishing web data.

Prima facie, BARC’s stance on the matter cannot be termed as a violation of the guidelines and/or the TRAI Act as the former does not come under the purview of the said act.

BARC is yet to confirm the date from when it intends to publish the weekly data. In both its statements so far, the company has cited reasons behind applying restrictions to public consumption of its data without offering a clarification as to how it intends to tackle the regulator’s constant questions.

It now remains to be seen what approach both parties adopt in breaking this deadlock. With both sides not backing off at the moment, the matter could soon take a serious legal turn.

Latest Reads

https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2019/10/15/mobile.jpg?itok=u3YqD9Hd
DPIIT seeks MIB views on issues regarding 26% FDI in digital media sector

MUMBAI: As the cabinet recently amended the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy allowing 26 per cent overseas investment in digital media with government approval, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has sought the views of the Ministry of Information and...

Regulators I&B Ministry
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2019/10/11/tab.jpg?itok=kiFijqlq
No current plans to impose regulation on OTT sector: MIB secretary

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) secretary Amit Khare said there is a need to rethink regulating over-the-top (OTT) platforms because some sections of the society are voicing concerns on its content. However, Khare also added that the ministry currently does not have any plan to...

Regulators I&B Ministry
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2019/10/10/trai_0.jpg?itok=8Q_UqNnB
TRAI organises international training programme on 'Emerging Trends in Broadcasting' with ITU

MUMBAI: The   Intemational  Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are jointly organizing an Intemational Training Program during 9th -11th October 2019 in New Delhi on "Emerging Trends in Broadcasting".

Regulators TRAI
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2019/10/10/trai.jpg?itok=15qmYZIl
TRAI mandates DPOs to let subscribers view, modify subscription through TRAI app, portal

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Addressable Systems) (Second Amendment) Regulations, 2019 (6 of 2019). TRAI's prevailing regulations/orders for the television...

Regulators TRAI
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2019/10/04/prakash.jpg?itok=f4Do6DPP
I&B Ministry plans regulations for OTT platforms

MUMBAI: The Information and Broadcasting Ministry (MIB) is contemplating a regulation for OTT platforms on the lines of print and electronic media, according to a news article by the Press Trust of India. Minister Prakash Javadekar, however, said that the government will not be taking any step that...

Regulators I&B Ministry
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2019/10/01/trai.jpg?itok=Qek4njUn
DPOs say broadcasters misusing TRAI tariff order with heavy discounts

Distribution platform operators (DPOs) believe that broadcasters have misused the flexibility available to them to give a discount on the sum of a-la-carte as high as 90 per cent. The operators have shared their views on Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI) consultation paper (CP) on ‘...

Regulators TRAI
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2019/09/30/prasar.jpg?itok=rNTEHcRx
Broadcasters want mandatory DD channels to be part of NCF base pack

Prasar Bharati and other private broadcasters want the 25 DD mandatory channels to be part of 100 FTA channels permitted in the Network Capacity Fee of Rs 130. The public broadcaster is of the view that the channels notified by the central government should be made available to subscribers without...

Regulators TRAI
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2019/09/28/itv_inb.jpg?itok=qmXhvgeI
MIB issues notice to 69 channels to provide technical parameters with EMMC

MUMBAI: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has issued a notice instructing 69 private satellite channels to provide complete set of technical parameters with Electronic  Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC)  of the ministry. While the notice was issues on 25 September, the channels have been...

Regulators I&B Ministry
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2019/09/27/Supreme%20Court.jpg?itok=3Xv1wPox
Supreme Court allows transfer of DTH licence fee petition from Kerala HC

MUMBAI: Moving one step closer to the long-fought battle on licence fees between direct-to-home (DTH) operators and the government of India, the Supreme Court has allowed the transfer of a related case to the apex court from the Kerala High Court.

Regulators Supreme Court

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories