TRAI recommends changes in BARC India to improve credibility, transparency of TV ratings

Industry watchdog has also advised change in board composition.

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out with its recommendation on television measurement and rating systems review. The regulatory body has advised structural reform in the existing body Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India. It has stated that the changes are required to mitigate potential risk of conflict and increase credibility and transparency. 

Changes in structural body; active participation of advertisers, advertising agency:

The industry watchdog has also advised changes in the composition of the board of BARC India. The board should have at least 50 per cent independent members including measurement technology experts. Equal representation of AAAI, IBF, and ISA has also been recommended. 

TRAI is of the opinion that active participation of representatives of the advertisers and the advertising agency will bring more accuracy, transparency, credibility, and neutrality in the system, due to their inherent need for advertisers to reach viewers accurately.

Formation of oversight committee

Moreover, an oversight committee has been recommended to create to guide the measurement body in the areas of research, design, and analysis. The need of multiple data collection agencies has also been mentioned for credible and accurate collection of data. 

The Oversight Committee shall be broad-based with representation from the National Council of Applied Economic Research, IIM, IIT, media research expert and demography expert, nominee from the ministry of information & broadcasting, and TRAI. The Committee should also be responsible for nomination/appointment of independent members of the Board as well as to give policy direction to BARC India, if it is so required.

Encouraging multiple data collection agencies

TRAI says multiple data collection agencies need to be encouraged to create credible and accurate collection of data. Competition and multiple agencies for data collection and processing would bring in new technologies, new research methodologies, new methods in analysis, new and better ways to ensure better data quality.

“Once multiple agencies come forward for rating, BARC should limit its role to publishing the ratings, and framing methodology and audit mechanism for the rating agencies, so that the number of agencies can develop multiple rating systems leveraging new technologies,” TRAI stated.

Change in role of DPOs

Notably, the regulatory body also stated that MIB should amend the DTH license and MSO registration so as to mandate STBs capable of transferring viewership data and adoption of RPD technology. This transfer of data can be done by establishing a return path/connection from STB to the remote servers of the Audience Measurement agency. 

Anonymized viewership data should be transferred electronically to the Audience Measurement agency for statistical analysis and television rating purposes. No data from any STB should be transferred to the rating agency without explicit consent from the subscribers. 

DPOs should be allowed to mutually negotiate the terms and conditions for sharing the data with the Measurement Rating agency within the overall framework prescribed by TRAI from time to time. Such a framework shall be prescribed by TRAI, once these recommendations are accepted by MIB. 

More transparency, less intervention

BARC has also been advised to stay at an arm’s length from its own subsidiary, Meterology Data Pvt Ltd., which is the sole data collecting agency for BARC, as of now, so that the entire process of measurement is carried out independently to ensure inherent checks in data inconsistency.

“Efforts may be made to withhold the identity of the channel’s name, and number, while collecting and processing the data from the field to bring more transparency in the complete process. BARC should also separate its functions in two units (a) one unit should be responsible for prescribing methodology of ratings/validation of data, publishing the data and audit mechanism and (b) the other unit for processing the data, watermarking or any other such technical work including management of data collection agencies,” TRAI added.

It has advised BARC to review/frame its outlier policy based on scientific study and market survey conducted from time to time along with automate data processing in such a manner that no manual intervention is required before the final TRP rating is released. TRAI suggests any type of manual intervention in the meter-level /raw data arising out of the household panel must be avoided. Manual intervention, if any, in abnormal circumstances should be reported and informed to the auditors also.

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