The standoff between major English news broadcasters and Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has become a matter of public record now. Industry sources who have interacted with exhange4media over the course of this controversy indicated that this was turning into a “perception battle” for networks. Having got together previously to highlight alleged irregularities on the part of Republic TV before bodies such as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and BARC, news television players are wary of projecting Arnab Goswami as a beleaguered hero. The intent is to prevent outpouring of any public support for Republic TV by making viewers aware of what they termed as rigged ratings.
Therefore, aggrieved English news television networks ran announcements on their respective channels informing viewers of the decision. What was earlier confined to allegations against Republic TV in the form of private written communication from News Broadcasters Association (NBA) to regulatory and industry bodies saw a major turn on May 18 with leading networks pulling out of BARC. This happened after the television viewership measurement agency published Republic TV’s viewership data despite resistance from NBA.
“India Today TV has exited BARC viewership measurement for now, as the data for the English news genre is distorted,” proclaimed TV Today on national television while addressing the issue. Promising to continue with the “gold standard of journalism”, the broadcaster hoped that malpractices which were going on “unchecked” and had “subverted” the system will soon be halted. Times Network, the former employer of Goswami, also broadcasted a near identical statement mentioning that its channels – Times Now and Mirror Now – had withdrawn from BARC for now. Promoted by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), this is probably the first time that the credibility of BARC’s data is being challenged to such an extent.
Noting that a “huge war was raging” in the industry pertaining to the usage of dual LCN (logical channel number), sources argued that this tactic must not be “encouraged” and broadcasters should “come down heavily” on it. “You can’t get into misleading practices to ramp up the numbers,” said a source. Moreover, it was added that ad money worth several thousand crore was riding on the domestic television business which was shaped by the way channel data gets reported, influencing nearly Rs 20,000 worth ad spends.