Punit Goenka, Chairman of BARC and Vice-President of the IBF Board, says all the checks and balances are in place for transparent governance and a robust ratings system. Excerpts from an interview:
What will change in the television audience measurement universe and the industry at large once BARC is in place?
As you know, the current incumbent system covers only part of the TV audiences as reported in the marketplace. As I understand it, the coverage is about 60 odd million homes whereas BARC will cover in Phase I itself, the entire TV universe of the country, which is 153 million homes. So it will expand the entire television viewership from the current base to almost two-and-a-half times.
Do you think BARC will eventually bring about changes in programming as well because of the way it maps the audience?
Very difficult to predict that, because we don’t know what will emerge, but I am expecting that it will create more weightage to lesser known genres, because of the sheer markets that we cover, whether it is rural or Tier II and Tier III towns where they have a need for different kind of content which is not being created today.
What are the possible hurdles in the way of BARC? What are the initial changes that need to be done before people fully accept this new currency?
This is an industry-driven initiative with all the three stakeholders being a part of it and if they remain true to the commitment of getting BARC off the ground, I don’t see too much of an issue that should come up because all three stake-holders have actually put their money where their mouth is. It’s just been a pro-bono experience, so while the challenges of what it will take to implement BARC on the ground remain because of the sheer expanse of the market that will be covered, from an industry perspective it will be a welcome change and I think most people are looking forward to it.
With stakeholders and the industry driving BARC, how do you ensure the right transparency and governance?
As you know it is a Board-led organization, and the Board is representative of all three industry bodies – the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, Advertising Agencies Association of India and Indian Society of Advertisers. Apart from that, the TechCom, which has equal representation between the three organizations, chaired by Shashi Sinha. From IBF we have Paritosh Joshi, and from ISA there is Smita Bhosle from HUL. The basic principle of governance there is that all the three stakeholders have to have a unanimous decision in the TechCom and any decision can only be over-ruled by 75% of the Board. So no one organization or stakeholder can swing the decision in their favour or otherwise. It was devised in the initial stages itself to be a very independent and robust decision-making and governance-based organization.
We took a decision at the Board level that we will be doing a pre-audit as well as post-audit of the entire process of BARC for which we have engaged EY, which actually does audits of viewership agencies globally. There is a team based out of the US that has come to India and started the audit work as we speak. So even before the ratings are published, we will be putting an audit report out. The procedures followed would be transparent.
What are some of the highlights of BARC that help it score over the present system?
The first thing is the number of markets that BARC will cover, the entire universe will be covered.
Second thing, the sample size which will be more than double of what the current system is in Phase I itself and then going forward, we plan a much higher number. So that will result in error levels hopefully lower than the current system.
We hear that IBF has formally advised its members to adopt BARC...
Yes, IBF has informed its members that BARC is now a reality and we will be coming out with data very soon and need support from all members to drive BARC.
There are concerns on the pricing front, that BARC is going to be costlier than the current rating system...
It is not a perception, but reality, it will be costlier. The fact of the matter is that when you create a system which is covering a much larger universe with a sample size more than double, it will be a little costlier. Also, you have to keep in mind that no stakeholder has actually put in any cash, but given guarantees. YesBank has supported us in a big way and helped us in the funding of the entire set-up. So, finance cost and all that will play a key role in getting the price up. Therefore, it will be a little costlier than the current pay-out that a broadcaster or any stakeholder does. But, it is not as if it is going way out of the line, it is going to be an incremental model to what we currently pay.
We are going to be very transparent in our pricing mechanism to the entire world. Our pricing will be published on our website itself. Currently, the incumbent system is a negotiation based pricing, so I can negotiate at X price and somebody else can be 1/2X or 2X, whereas in the BARC system there will be no disparity. It will be very transparent and everybody is paying as per the formula, that is the differentiation. The basic word we are going for is ‘Transparent Mechanism’ in our operations and price.
As chairman of this organization, I am thankful to all the stakeholders for supporting this initiative and making this happen. Definitely, we are at the fag end of the tunnel where we can see the light.