Is govt committee on TV ratings an intrusion in BARC's functioning?

Industry leaders say BARC’s efficiency should not be questioned solely because some channels have come under the scanner

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Nov 6, 2020 9:46 AM

As the television industry grapples with the controversy over the TRP scam, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has decided to form a committee to review the guidelines on television rating agencies in India.

Making the announcement on Tuesday, the ministry said, "Based on the operation of the guidelines for a few years, there is need to have a fresh look on the guidelines particularly keeping in view the recent recommendations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), technological advancements /interventions to address the system and further strengthening of the procedures for a credible and transparent rating system. A committee is hereby constituted to study different aspects of the television rating system in India as they have evolved over a period of time."

According to industry leaders, this is not the first time that the government has tried to intervene. Earlier, TRAI too recommended restructuring of BARC with an aim to improve transparency and credibility. Though, this time, it is not clear if the government's aim to form the committee is to further strengthen the rating system or build a new rating body.

A senior executive of one of the leading broadcast companies, on the condition of anonymity, said "This is an old battle and the government, in some way or the other, has been trying to enter the BARC system since its launch in 2015. Such initiative by the government is not a good move. BARC is an independent joint industry body by clients, agencies and broadcasters, and MIB or TRAI should not enter this system."

"I am not sure what new set-up or guidelines they want to impose as BARC has always been very transparent. Just because we have a TRP scam doesn't mean that the rating body system is bad or inefficient. It's a robust system in terms of technology. I am not sure what MIB will regulate?” he shared.

BARC, meanwhile, has already set up the technical committee led by top clients who spend heavily on advertising on TV channels based on their TRPs.

“It's a foolproof system. Government trying to enter the BARC system only means that now they want to control/regulate every space in the media through MIB, TRAI and now BARC,” the executive opined.

One of the reference points that the committee has suggested is taking steps for improving competition in the sector.

“Neither the industry is ready for another rating body nor it's viable to build another BARC. I don’t think it's a great move. The government mandate clearly indicates that they want another rating agency,” said another media observer.

Even if the government plans to build another rating agency, the biggest concern is, who will make such a big investment?

“It took several years to build BARC. Increasing people meters from 44,000 to 66,000 requires a lot of investment. Building another rating system will only disrupt the media industry. Just like the ad cap case, I think this will also go on for some months and die down. They will give some recommendations to BARC, and whether it's feasible for BARC to implement them will have to be seen. But structurally nothing will change,” said a senior industry leader.

Echoing similar thoughts, a senior media analyst said BARC is the best rating body that the industry has formed in terms of transparency and efficiency. "There can be some changes but I don't think they can get a better mechanism than BARC," he says.

The government committee will be chaired by Shashi S Vempati, CEO, Prasar Bharti, and will have three other members: Dr Shalabh, Professor of Statistics, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, IIT Kanpur ; Rajkumar Upadhyay, Executive Director, C-DOT ; and Professor Pulak Ghosh, Decision Sciences Centre for Public Policy (CPP).


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