TV channels take up TDSAT landing page order issue with BARC, want action reversed

BARC, however, says, it will be compliant with the TDSAT ruling, unless someone further challenges the order

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jun 8, 2019 8:15 AM

While Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal’s (TDSAT) recent judgment on landing page was good news for some, many broadcasters detest the move that nullifies TRAI’s restraint on all broadcasters and distributors of TV channels from placing any registered TV channel on the landing page. Broadcasters have written a letter to BARC, requesting it to “reconsider and reinstate the appropriate moderation policies”.

Following TDSAT’s ruling, BARC India has notified they would include the ratings of channels placed on landing page in its weekly ratings data. The latest data put out by BARC shows CNN News 18 on the number one spot followed by Republic TV, Times Now, DD India and India Today Television. Most broadcasters feel this data from Week 22 is reflective of how broadcasters with deep pockets manipulate the ratings with huge investments on landing page.

If numbers provided by market sources are anything to go by, owning landing page across most big MSOs require investments to the tune of Rs 300 crore.

Some broadcasters consider this practice of rating regressive as it takes away the option of choice from viewers. 

“The use of landings to drive forced reach and engineer ratings will enable a back-door way of re-enacting the carriage menace that played out in the analog era. Landing is akin to buying placement on prime band during analog era and forcing reach, thereby manipulating ratings. It vitiates pure play required for unbiased measurement, thereby ultimately compromising creativity, entrepreneurship and democratisation of content promised by digitisation and digitalisation of the broadcast industry,” says Vikas Khanchandani, CEO, Republic TV.

According to Praveen Puttanna, Head, Legal & Channel Distribution, TV 9, once a channel appears on the landing page, 80 out of 100 people stick on to it for a time frame between 2 minutes and 15 minutes and this increases the channel’s viewership. “By putting your channel on landing page, you are forcefully making the viewer watch your channel and not letting the viewer choose. Channels that have good content but are not cash-rich are hence falling short on the ratings because they are losing on half the viewers to the landing page. BARC should make an amendment to this practice because it unfair in every way possible,” says Puttanna.

Puttanna’s thoughts are echoed by others. Vivek Parakh , COO at IBC, says, “Every time audience switches on the TV, a particular channel will be shown on the landing page. This will affect the psychology of the audience which may result into TOMA, i.e. top of the mind awareness, and longer exposure may result in change in the preference and liking of the audience.”

In the letter written to the CEO and the chairman of BARC, one of the broadcasters has mentioned, “We now understand that the TDSAT order dated 29th May 2019 has propelled BARC to dismantle the statistical bias corrections to neutralise landing channel reach. This has caused a sudden and abrupt gyration to the pecking order for English news genre. We wish to underline our considered view that this TDSAT order only sets aside the TRAI order of 3.12.2018 and hence cannot in anyway be seen as legitimising the landing channel abusive practices. To repeat, it only strikes down TRAI’s direction issued on 8.11.2017 seeking "to restrain broadcasters and distributors of television channels from placing any registered satellite channel on the landing Logical Channel Number (LCN) or Landing Channel or Boot up Screen".

In the letter, the broadcasters have termed this new methodology of rating as ‘Landing menace induced data corruption’. The letter thus requests BARC to reconsider and reinstate the appropriate moderation policies as that alone will ensure that BARC report on “what India is watching” bereft of any data bias.

BARC, however, has a different take on it.  

“Placing channels on landing page improves opportunity to view, and is a purely distribution level activity. As per the TDSAT ruling, distribution platform operators can effectively run landing page activity. Any viewing for a channel arising out of landing page will also be reported in the weekly data, and any changes in viewership, whether peaks or troughs, will reflect in the final output. BARC India will be compliant with the TDSAT ruling, unless someone further challenges the ruling. Being a responsible joint industry body,  our measurement system and processes have been guided by our Technical Committee, with the consensus and support of all stakeholders represented through their stakeholder bodies (IBF, ISA and AAAI),” said a BARC India spokesperson.

According to the Chairman of the Technical Committee of BARC, Shashi Sinha, who is also the CEO of IPG Mediabrands India, BARC doesn't have the capability to measure the impact or reduce the impact of landing pages.

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