No BARC data on news channels for three months: Industry a divided house

While some broadcasters feel the blackout period will eliminate any anomaly in the system, others argue suspending ratings at a time when news viewership is high is unfair

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Oct 16, 2020 8:54 AM  | 4 min read

Thursdays will be different for the next three months. There will be no weekly BARC ratings of news channels. But will that ease the competition among channels or will lack of ratings impact business? Broadcasters have a divided view on the development.

Some broadcasters feel that the blackout period will eliminate any anomaly in the system and eventually bring out the real picture of what Indians watch on TV.

“It is certainly a crucial and important step towards ensuring and improving statistical robustness in the measurement system. Reviewing the current protocols will lead to more secure safeguards and best practices. The onus is now on the industry and the measurement body to collaborate and address this situation at the earliest in all earnestness,” said Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network.

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has also welcomed BARC's decision to suspend the measurement of television viewership ratings of news channels for a period of 12 weeks. The broadcaster’s body is hopeful that the period of suspension will be utilized to implement important reforms at BARC.

According to a school of broadcasters, with the race to be on the top out of the television ecosystem for 12 weeks,  the news industry will finally get a breather period when channels will focus on nothing but their content.

“The manner in which some news channels have gone about flaunting TRPs , chasing TRPs, has led to this dismal scenario within the industry. I hope this weekly Thursday business comes to an end soon and some new authority/mechanism is created to judge channels on genuine merit,” said industry veteran Bhupendra Chaubey who is also the owner and co-promoter of India Ahead.

While content may become the priority for news channels, will the move by BARC actually disturb toplines? Will news channels lose on their ad bills? Perhaps not.

Explaining why not having ratings will not impact business, Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer, Advertisement Revenue, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd said, “Just because there will be no ratings doesn’t mean the audience will also stop watching news. There is demand for news which is visible in the viewership data of the past few months, so three months of no ratings doesn’t mean no business for channels. Advertisers have their own measurement mechanism and they buy their inventory in advance. Whenever there is need to go by ratings, ratings from the immediate past are reflective of trends and will be followed.”

This is not the first time when BARC data went off public domain. Early last year BARC went into a blackout period of not releasing viewership data on public platforms when the industry was migrating to TRAI’s new tariff order.

"It is a welcome step to take cognizance, review and augment the current standards. In fact, in my opinion this augmentation should be in a constant state of beta for a long time. In today’s data-centric world, getting the parameters right is way more important than putting out a rating. The purity and sanctity of reporting takes precedence over everything else", said Sajan Raj Kurup, Founder - CreativeLand Asia.

While some broadcasters supported the move, the decision to pause ratings did not go down too well with others.

“It is very surprising that BARC has suspended ratings of the news genre when only some names are part of the controversy. And suspending ratings at a time when news viewership is high is unfair,” said Varun Kohli CEO, iTV Network.

News Broadcasters Federation NBF issued a statement objecting BARC’s decision. “The decision is unilateral, one-sided and undemocratic, impacting and targeting one single genre within the broadcasting ecosystem,” said R Jai Krishna, General-Secretary, and News Broadcasters Federation. “The decision will severely impact news broadcasters, who have seen a surge in ratings despite the challenges of a lower-than-expected economic growth that has impacted their revenues already, in addition to the financial impact created by the lockdown to prevent spread of Covid-19,” he added.

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