TRAI recommends restructuring plan for BARC to improve credibility of TV ratings

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has suggested reviewing the structure and methodology of television ratings monitoring agency, Broadcast Audience Research Council, or BARC, after stakeholders raised concerns over neutrality and reliability of the existing system.

The regulator has proposed reforms in the governance structure of BARC to mitigate the potential risk of conflict of interest, improve credibility, bring transparency, and boost confidence of all stakeholders in the television rating point (TRP) system.

Trai had issued a consultation paper on the review of television audience measurement and ratings in India in December 2018 and held open house discussions on the subject last year. BARC was accredited by the information & broadcasting ministry in 2015 to carry out television ratings in India. Since then, it has been the sole provider of TV ratings services on a commercial basis.

Trai suggested changing the composition of the board of BARC India, with at least 50% of its members being independent, including a measurement technology expert, a statistician of national repute and two representatives from the government or regulator. The restructured board should have equal representation of the three constituent industry associations–Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF)–with equal voting rights, irrespective of their proportion of equity holding. The tenure of the board members will be two years.

Trai also suggested that the tenure of the chairman should not exceed two years and chairmanship should be rotated among the industry associations every two years. An oversight committee should be formed to guide BARC India in areas of research, design and analysis, constantly improving the rating system, which should have representation from the National Council of Applied Economic Research, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), media research and demography experts, a nominee from the MIB, and Trai.

To collect credible and accurate data, multiple data mop-up agencies need to be encouraged to bring in new technologies and research methodologies, Trai said. BARC’s subsidiary, Meterology Data Pvt Ltd, is the sole data collecting agency for BARC.

Once multiple agencies participate, BARC should limit its role to publishing the ratings and framing methodology and audit mechanism for agencies to develop multiple rating systems with new technologies. BARC should be mandated to increase the sample size from the existing 44,000 to 60,000 by the end of 2020, and 100,000 by the end of 2022, using existing technology.

Trai advised that BARC should automate data processing without manual intervention before the final TRP is released. Any type of manual intervention in the meter level or raw data arising out of a household panel must be avoided.

“The Trai recommendations have only just been received. BARC India is reviewing the same in consultation with its board and stakeholders. All stakeholders from the industry, the government and related bodies are aware of the scientific, statistical and technical robustness of the data collated and released by BARC. BARC truly represents all facets of the industry comprising advertisers, agencies and broadcasters regardless of size, as the currency of what India watches. We do not wish to comment at this very early stage,” BARC said in a statement

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