MUMBAI: Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the only television audience measurement body in India, has temporarily suspended the review of viewership of three news channels.
An industry source confirmed the news to Indiantelevision.com that BARC has communicated to all the broadcasters that ratings for India News, TV9 Telegu and V6 News have been suspended owing to suspected mala fide practices. These news channels will not be seen in latest ratings as well.
BARC India neither confirmed nor denied the information when Indiantelevision.com got in touch with the ratings agency.
The weekly review of the three channels has been suspended for four weeks, and their review will not be published from the current BARC Week 46 to BARC Week 49.
Contacted by Indiantelevision.com on the BARC India notice, V6 News CEO Ravi Ankam communicated through chief technical officer Kishore Kumar, "We ourselves are shocked at this. I'm sure there has been a mistake and we are talking about this with the BARC management. V6 News is known for its uniqueness in responsible journalism and is popular among the masses. V6 management would never depend on such unnecessary manipulation."
Bangalore-based TV 9 head of marketing (who is in-charge of the media department) Clifford Pereira chose not to receive calls from Indiantelevision.com. (BARC India’s ratings in Week-38 reiterated the undisputed dominance of Ravi Prakash’s TV 9 in Telugu news channel segment with 210.5 Gross Rating Point. )
India News CEO Varun Kohli, via an email response, said, “We are shocked to hear this and are seized of the decision taken by BARC. We are trying to talk to all the stakeholders, including BARC, to resolve the matter and address any misgivings. We are confident that the matter will be sorted out soon. We are a credible network in the broadcasting business for the last eight years and have shown consistent growth for the last five years in TAM and BARC ratings. We believe in the transparency of the system and intend getting to the bottom of the matter and exploring all options available to us.”
ITV Media Network managing director Kartikeya Sharma chose not to speak on this issue. Someone else picked up his mobile phone when Indiantelevision.com dialled him, excused himself, and never got back when asked to react to the development related to BARC.
It may be recalled that, in October, BARC India and Kerala TV Federation (KTF) had filed a joint police complaint with the director-general of Kerala Police after receiving complaints regarding attempts to retrieve addresses of BARC India panel homes and alleged efforts made to influence viewing trends.
The basis of the police complaint was BARC India vigilance team’s collation of conclusive evidence of more than one effort to tamper with BARC’s audience measurement system in favour of a couple of channels. Preliminary scrutiny by on-ground vigilance team confirmed that attempts were made by some individuals to not only find out addresses of BARC India panel homes but also to incentivise them and influence their viewership patterns.
BARC’s predecessor TAM India too had been plagued with allegations of such manipulations. In the late 1990s and early 2000s even a list of TAM India meter homes were circulated to media houses hinting that the measurement was not foolproof.
Learning from such lapses, BARC during its formative stages, undertook measures such as resorting to water-marking technology to plug loopholes.