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It is not fair to compare TAM & BARC: Partho Dasgupta

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It is not fair to compare TAM & BARC: Partho Dasgupta

Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) announced Partho Dasgupta as its CEO in May this year. With Gupta’s appointment, the body aims to move ahead aggressively on the ratings agenda and rollout BARC services in the stipulated time frame.

At a time when the industry is amidst several issues, with regards to disagreement over the current ratings system, there is a need for a harmonious resolution that has a buy-in from all stakeholders. 

In a freewheeling chat with exchange4media, Dasgupta talks about his agenda as BARC CEO, timeline for the new ratings system, differences between TAM and BARC, and more...

What has been at the top of your agenda since you took charge as CEO of BARC?
The mandate is simple – to design, commission, supervise and own India’s Broadcast Measurement System. That is the agenda. We have a supportive Board and a Technical Committee that knows its business well. I am fortunate to be guided by them.

Some say BARC’s one-year timeframe to be operational is unrealistic and it will take a minimum of two years to get the measurement system going. Any comment?
Let’s see. The timelines for receiving proposals, evaluating and shortlisting, negotiations, etc are set. We are progressing on schedule.

How will BARC be different from TAM, considering that the same set of industry stakeholders were part of the JIB that helped set up TAM 15 years ago?
BARC is not TAM, and TAM is not BARC. It is not fair to compare either. TAM is a corporate differently structured than BARC, and that is where I think the first difference comes in. BARC is formed by broadcasters, advertisors and advertising agencies. And they are actively in the board running the company. Secondly, BARC is not a research or monitoring agency. Rather, we are a nodal body that will identify multiple agencies for research and technology.

It is still not clear who would be the regulating agency for the TV rating process in India – TRAI, I&B Ministry or the industry itself? What is your opinion? Should there be a regulator at all, or should there be a self-regulated mechanism through BARC?

The way we are designing it, there will be a strong inherent self-regulation mechanism within BARC. Separate RFPs have been floated for research and technology. Depending upon the responses, the paneling could be the responsibility of one vendor, while the collection could be the responsibility of another. The establishment survey – which would help us arrive at the universe estimate and the weights for various demographic groups is being done by a third party. With approx 2.4 lakh respondents, across urban and rural areas, the establishment survey is arguably the largest in the world, and unprecedented in Indian television history. Thus, there is no single vendor who will have access to all data.

Coming back to your question, the Technical Committee that will oversee the process has representation across all stakeholders. Thus, there is an inherent system of checks and balances at every stage.

What will be the backbone of your research methodology? TAM could fall back on its parent organisation Nielsen and Kantar Media Research…
As mentioned earlier, we envisage a situation where there would be multiple vendors for research and technology. The resultant data will reside with BARC, who will publish it in the form that users want it. Over the next few weeks, the Technical Committee will be strengthened with senior experts from the industry who would help ensure that correct analysis is done.

The BARC management will also be having senior research personnel who will ensure proper adherence to all research protocol, ensuring right data analysis. This team will be formed over the next few months.

What is the technology and accuracy advantage that BARC will bring to the television measurement system? We believe your establishment survey aims to map consumption of television content across demographies, analog and digital delivery modes and all screens such as TV, mobiles, tablets and laptops…
Yes, we believe that increasingly, broadcast has moved beyond just television, and any research that we commission has to be future-ready. We are happy that strong technology providers across the globe have responded to our RFP. We are sure the best answer would lie in one of the proposals. Some technology solutions that we have seen could be paradigm changing. We have to wait and see though the practicality and commercial viability.

More on the interview in IMPACT’s next issue

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