The Media Research User’s Council (MRUC) has decided to delay the release of Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2008 Round 1 due to additional and repeat fieldwork. Hansa Research, the agency which undertakes the fieldwork for IRS, had reported to MRUC that some publications were trying to influence results in some markets, as a result of which fieldwork was being redone.
When quested, Hansa Research’s Ashok Das said, “Our quality control process has identified some issues with the fieldwork in Rajasthan. A few interviewers were being influenced by representatives of a publication to change readership numbers obtained from the survey. Due to this, all work in this round in Rajasthan is being thoroughly re-checked and all areas where any influencing comes to notice, is being cancelled. The field team has been disbanded and most of the work in Rajasthan will now be handled by outstation teams for the next few months.”
The MRUC Board has decided to create a ‘Code of Conduct’, which all constituencies will have to abide by. Under this, a Standing Committee will investigate issues relating to publication interference in the research process – whether identified through the quality control process of the research agency, or through complaints raised by members. This committee would be empowered to appoint an external agency to investigate such issues.
Das refused to identify the publication that tried to influence the research work, stating that he could not divulge a name until an in-depth investigation in the matter was completed. Would this create unrest among other data users? Das replied in the negative, “No, I do not expect anything of this nature. We carry out consistent, exhaustive and detailed quality control steps, and are confident that such cases will be found and corrected, if they were to happen again. In no case will we allow any tampered data to go through our system.”
However, Das did mention that similar attempts had been identified to have taken place in the past as well, and similar action had been taken of disbanding the on-ground team and working afresh in the markets.
An MRUC communiqué quoted, “This has resulted in considerable delays and waste of time and money. This issue has more recently come into focus in the case of Rajasthan, where the research agency’s quality control process found evidence of an attempt to manipulate and influence research findings. As such, all fieldwork in the current round in this state is being cancelled. Further investigations will now be carried out in relation to the issues in Rajasthan.”
Various publishers remark that while it was positive on Hansa’s part to identify the problem and address it, they now wonder whether this had taken place earlier too. Some publishers could even look at this as an excuse for instances where they have not been happy with their numbers. With the IRS facing such problems and being delayed, and the National Readership Survey (NRS) yet not finalising on a research agency, print research in India does look like a problem area that needs industry attention.