Do not resume news ratings till we examine committee report: MIB tells BARC

Govt's letter to BARC on maintaining status quo came barely a few days after NBF approached MIB Minister Prakash Javadekar seeking his intervention in resuming the data

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman & Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Feb 24, 2021 11:13 AM

Amidst all the chaos over the ongoing blackout of TV ratings for the news genre, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has now asked the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to maintain “status quo” on the same until the ministry concludes examination of the report on the matter submitted by a committee.

The MIB has written a letter to BARC in this regard.

Quoting from the letter, dated February 15, ( a copy of which is available with exchange4media), MIB Under-secretary P Nagarajan says, “As you are aware that a committee was constituted by this ministry, dated 04.11.2020, under the chairmanship of Shashi Shekhar Vempati, CEO, Prasar Bharati, to study and examine the deficiencies in the existing TRP system and propose technological advancements/interventions for further strengthening of the procedures for a robust, credible and transparent rating system. The committee has since submitted its report which is under examination. In view of the above, BARC is directed to maintain status quo as at present.”

Surprisingly, the letter to maintain status quo came barely a few days after News Broadcasters Federation (NBF), an industry body which largely comprises regional and some national channels, approached MIB Minister Prakash Javadekar, seeking his intervention in resuming the data. The body, in a letter, claimed that they are ready for any changes in BARC but the complete absence of ratings has truly destroyed the economy of news channels.

“We are stakeholders in BARC. Data measurement is the lifeline of our broadcast industry. In the past too, there have been incidents of manipulation but shutting it down is not the solution. The improvements can only happen while the data flows continuously. It’s an ongoing process of improvement. We are humbly requesting you to urgently intervene,” read the letter sent by NBF to MIB.

The body had also claimed that in the absence of currency, smaller channels are making heavy monetary losses. “How do we sell ourselves in the absence of currency? Why blackout only news genre data? Several brands have started to ignore news channels as they don’t have ratings to attract them,” said a senior industry member who is associated with NBF.

Meanwhile, News Broadcasters Association (NBA), that comprises all leading national news channels, on the other hand, has not yet raised any demand for the release of data, but has instead written to BARC enquiring about the ‘cleansing processes’ that it was supposed to take up in the three months of the blackout period.

In a letter sent to BARC, among other things, NBA demanded an explanation of the concrete steps that have been taken by it in the last three months to secure the ratings.
Some of the demands quoted in the letter were to ‘bring transparency to the process and create a system whereby any changes to the ratings that impact the news ecosystem is done only after due consultation with a BARC sub-committee of NBA nominees’ and to ‘explain what penal actions are provided for in the BARC constitution against broadcasters who have indulged in manipulation of ratings of this magnitude and what action will be taken in the current case.’

According to the NBA board, the corrupt data released month after month has not only led to reputation loss but has also caused huge financial losses to news broadcasters for which BARC is duty bound to give an explanation.

e4m reached out to BARC India for official comments on the development, but did not receive a response till the filing of this story. 

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