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BARC India's approach post TDSAT's landing page order draws concern from some stakeholders

BARC board has formed a 2-member committee to review its outlier policy

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MUMBAI: Questions and controversies around TDSAT’s ruling on landing pages and BARC India’s subsequent flip-flop over implementation of its data validation and outlier policy refuse to die down. In a bid to allay transparency fears of a section within India’s broadcast sector, the BARC board approved a recommendation to set up a two-member committee to review the TV audience measurement body’s outlier policy.

“As you are aware, there has been a lot of confusion around the landing page in the market. Therefore in order to give confidence to the industry and the stakeholders, BARC board approved a recommendation to set a two-member committee. Mr Nakul Chopra and Mr Praveen Tripathi are industry leaders and their appointment only reiterates the BARC board’s reassurance to give confidence to the industry.

“Though we at BARC India, have been requested by many stakeholders to continue with the outlier policy, an independent overview of the process and any recommendation to improve, are always welcome and we look forward to working with this committee. Also, recently Deloitte had done a detailed audit on this process and found it clean” a BARC India spokesperson told Indiantelevision.com.

Despite the latest move being a step in the right direction, the naming of the two appointees hasn't really inspired "confidence" among some industry stakeholders. If the objective is to carry out an “independent overview”, those entrusted with the task should ideally be above suspicion of a potential or perceived conflict of interest irrespective of their calibre and competence, is a view expressed by several industry executives. While Chopra is a former BARC chairman, Tripathi as CEO of Magic9 Media and Analytics continues to be associated with BARC as a consultant/vendor. Tripathi's company had earlier helped BARC process data from barometers, identify outliers and project ratings.

While it isn't the board's job to wade through the minutiae of everyday operations, the fact that BARC's data validation and outlier policy mechanism and implementation has assumed game-changing proportions for the ecosystem is an aspect that needs its serious consideration, say some industry watchers.

"In the case of BARC, the problem is compounded as customers are also board members,” pointed out an industry source.

Some broadcasters, however, have raised more fundamental issues, which go beyond the BARC board’s involvement or lack of it in the outlier policy implementation.

“Is BARC circumventing the TDSAT order which allows landing pages as a legal practice?” questioned a senior news broadcasting executive.

The need of the hour, say some, is transparency of BARC’s internal mechanism in weeding out outliers given that there is a degree of subjectivity attached to it.

"As for the landing page, BARC has and does maintain that they cannot identify landing pages. The process can, however, identify reach outliers which could happen for landing pages in big cable networks for smaller viewed channels or when there is a distribution intervention like activation or improvement in availability. The same principle applies to content interventions also. Most analysts who keenly watch these numbers especially for genres like English news and business news do know this since the landing page discussions started some time back. At BARC, our mandate is to measure viewership with transparency and accuracy to provide a credible measurement," the BARC India spokesperson added.

Broadcasters that compete for a small viewership base fight for every eyeball. In an environment such as this, the landing page saga has boxed them into a state of flux when it comes to a post-TDSAT order strategy. The outcome of the two-member committee’s findings is what they keenly await in the hope of some clarity and reassurance. 

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