Report on Hindi News Viewership

NBF questions Barc’s opt-out methodology; demands release of recent historical data

Ratings releasing on 17 March will not give a 'fair and transparent picture of viewership,' it sai

Mumbai: The News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) has written to Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) expressing its apprehensions around the manner in which the agency is to resume ratings on 17 March. In a letter dated 9 February, NBF has alleged that the move indicates “continued favouritism to select few channels that would reflect in skewed audience measurement numbers and fabricated industry representation when the data is planned to be released on March 17, 2022.”

Barc’s communication to its subscribers on 7 February comes barely a week after detailed discussion with channels of NBDA, which the NBF claimed “are of conflict of interest on this issue. NBF, as the largest new broadcasters’ industry association protecting the business interest of news channels, has not been consulted despite several requests on the same.”

The association has also expressed doubt regarding the opt-out methodology being used by Barc having an official seal of approval from the MIB.

“The MIB had directed Barc to release the data with ‘immediate effect’ on a four week rolling over basis including the data for the preceding three months ‘for fair and equitable representation of true trends’. Barc, however, has chosen to completely undermine the government’s order, and in violation, is now proceeding with an opt-out option. Ratings are relative within a genre. The opt-out option is a direct contravention and renders completely redundant the MIB direction of three-month ratings. It is a way to conceal even recent historical data,” NBF said.

The association argued that the decision to withhold data will deprive advertisers of complete clarity on how news viewership had been during the dark period and will hinder the post-evaluation of their campaigns. “News channel viewership is measured in market share terms. Any channel opting out disrupts the true representation of the market share. Barc by providing an opt-out option is doing an extreme disservice to the entire industry including advertisers and advertising agencies as well.”

Voicing concern regarding the date of ratings release, NBF noted that the MIB order directing the ‘immediate’ release of ratings came on 12 January. Releasing the data on 17 March will not give a ‘fair and transparent picture of the actual viewership.’

“Even if the audience data is released on a four-week rolling average basis on 17 March, final TRPs will skew the average since it would only reflect a one-off major event of the assembly elections and the ensuing counting day to five states, including Uttar Pradesh. The day chosen for the resumption of ratings will not give a fair and transparent picture of the actual viewership across the stakeholders - trusted viewers, advertisers and advertising agencies.”

In an earlier letter dated 28 January, NBF had urged Barc to resume TV ratings for willing news channels, starting 3 February. Its member news channels had, in fact, demanded the release of ratings for the entire blackout period of 16 months.

“Even during the dark period - October 15 2020 until date - audience data is being collected and tabulated for all genres including those with a lesser sample size than news channels. So, in all fairness, it should be released as they are, with immediate effect and as directed by the MIB,” stated the letter dated 9 February.

The NBF has also questioned Barc’s silence on the systems that have to be put in place to correct the impact of landing pages, which is a major concern for the industry. “Barc needs to openly declare the outliers and the measures that are being taken to prevent the spike in ratings due to landing pages,” it observed.

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