TRAI directs BARC to immediately publish TV Ratings data

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has directed the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to release the TV/broadcast audience data for the Week 6 (February 2 to 8) without any further deal.

The BARC, ever since the implementation of the new TRAI tariff regime, has been releasing the broadcast audience data only to its subscribers. The television ratings monitoring agency had also ignored a TRAI advise earlier to release the data in accordance with the existing practice.

Now the TRAI has sent a sternly worded letter to BARC for immediate compliance, according to an BARC had cited implementation of the new tariff order as the reason for it not sticking to the norm.

The TRAI had has asked the data monitoring agency to furnish compliance latest by today (Monday, February 25),  “failing which, appropriate action would be initiated” under relevant sections of the TRAI Act.

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BARC India has modified its Fair and Permissible Usage Policy in February 14, 2019, even after being repeatedly asked by the authority to not stop publishing of rating data and viewership data on its website during the migration to a new regulatory framework until and unless explicitly permitted by the authority and are thus, in contravention of the direction of the authority dated December 21, 2018 and January 14, 2019,” the TRAI directive read.

According to TRAI, BARC has ignored its previous directives of publishing ratings and viewership data for television channels. The regulator said that the audience measurement company had argued that disruption due to migration to a new regulatory framework could prevent consumers from gaining access to channels of their choice, thereby running the risk of an inaccurate portrayal of TV consumption trends in the country.

The broadcasters reportedly were not keen on the weekly data being published on the BARC website. With fluctuations expected during the tariff order implementation, broadcasters were sceptical about how the weekly data would impact their channels and popular shows especially from a public perception point of view.

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TRAI, however, as opposed to the idea of not publishing the data, which, it feels, is a true reflection of the market changes. BARC’s decision to “withhold” the data is not justified, the regulator pointed out, stated the report.

TRAI also highlighted that BARC “failed to furnish any cogent reason for not publishing the rating and viewership data” and that “such action on part of BARC India reflects poorly on the creditworthiness of the data published by them.”

“Now…the authority…hereby directs Broadcast Audience Research Council to immediately release and publish viewership data for the week ending February 8, 2019 and weeks subsequent to it, on its website without any further delay and not to stop it in future also without explicit instruction/direction from the authority or Ministry of Information and Broadcasting…,” said the TRAI directive.

BARC was set up as an industry-funded body following the drawing up of guidelines for TV monitoring agencies by TRAI and the I& B ministry and require registration with the latter.

Recently, TRAI extended the deadline for consumers to select television channels under its new tariff regime till March 31. Subscribers that don’t opt for new channels would be moved to ‘Best Fit Plans’, which would be developed as per usage pattern, language and channel popularity, the sector regulator said in its statement.

Earlier, the Indian Society of Advertisers’ (ISA) executive council had advised its members to not use the BARC data for media buying, planning, and evaluation perspective during the transition period, which it feels will stretch up to six weeks.

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