Why does BARC need 10-week lead time to release news data?

According to a veteran media and advertising executive, BARC has to follow certain procedures before reporting the news data

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jan 17, 2022 1:12 PM  | 4 min read

Ever since the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) asked BARC (Broadcasters Audience Research Council) India to release the news viewership data with immediate effect, new facts are emerging each day. According to highly placed sources, BARC India has sought 10 weeks' lead time from the MIB before releasing the viewership data for news which has been under suspension since October 2020.

The information has led everyone in the broadcasting sector wonder why BARC India needs 10 weeks' lead time when it is already collecting news data and has been testing it as per the revised system of reporting four-week average rolling data for news and niche channels.

According to a veteran media and advertising executive, who is an expert in the media measurement domain, BARC has to follow certain procedures before reporting the news data. It needs to  communicate to all news and niche channels about the revised format and get their consent on the treatment of old data.

"They have to write to all broadcasters and follow multiple protocols. It's about aligning broadcasters and stakeholders. Actual ratings can go out in two weeks because they were already doing the rolling average. Tests for the rolling average data have already happened. BARC will have to take consent from individual broadcasters whether the old data will be suppressed or not and what exactly they want for their channels. Then, which are the 15 events that they want in a year. In that, they will get unroll data for about 15 events," the executive said, on condition of anonymity.

He further stated that the issue is both procedural and technical. "They have to take everyone's consent and then see to it that everyone is part of that mechanism. Some channels will say these are the 15 events, some will say that my other 15 unroll data will have to be cleaned because it cannot be done manually. Then they will ask the news and niche channels, which will take time as there are more than 300-400 channels. Once they get everyone's response, they will clean that data and then do a trial run," the executive added.

A media professional, who is aware of BARC India's systems and processes, said the council needs to explain why it needs 10 weeks for releasing the data, particularly since the audience measurement body's user interface is capable of delivering the four-week rolling average data for news and niche genres.

"They have the data and if the user interface can deliver the four-week rolling average then somebody in BARC has to explain what it is that you want to do in the 10 weeks. And why just 10 weeks? Why not 15 weeks or half a year? The question to ask BARC is 'what you can do in 10 weeks that you can't do now?'. Because if we are to believe them, they have said that the data is lying with them, and they have said that the user interface can do the four-week rolling average which is the new format for reporting news and niche channel data," the executive said.

He also said that the technical aspect of the data roll-out is limited to updating the software and ensuring that it works without any hiccups. "Every day when subscribers go to their BARC user interface, it sometimes asks for updating software just like any other software. So it is a question of installing new software and testing if it is working right. If the system that subscribers are working on is handling the new user interface, then you are good to go," he added.

The media professional said BARC needs to protect the integrity of the whole system. "The only interest that a measurement system should have is that the data is being produced rigorously, meticulously, and with integrity," he stated.

He also pointed out that the financial year and the assembly elections will be over by the time the 10-week period ends. "If the data is released after 10 weeks, it means the end of this financial year. It also means that the elections will be over," he noted.



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