BARC has a history of ratings pauses, latest being the fourth in six years

A ratings pause was first introduced in April of 2015 when those subscribing to television viewership data were asked to switch from TAM, the erstwhile television measurement agency, to BARC.
Following reports of alleged rigging of viewership ratings, television (TV) viewership monitoring agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) of India has said it will pause publishing of weekly data for news channels for the next 8-12 weeks to ‘review and augment the current standards’ of measuring and reporting the data.


Grappling with manipulation of TV rating points, it has had to suspend providing viewership data on a few occasions in the past, pointing to the challenges the body has faced in managing stakeholder interests.


On Friday, BARC decided to extend its ratings pause for the news genre. This is the fourth time in six years that the body has had to temporarily suspend ratings.


The Indian Broadcasting Foundation, which includes the country’s top TV channels, has 60 per cent representation on the BARC board. Twenty per cent each is represented by The Indian Society of Advertisers and the Advertising Agencies Association of India. BARC has maintained its stand that the review with the technical committee is ongoing and that it will intimate stakeholders at the appropriate time.


A ratings pause was first introduced in April 2015 when those subscribing to TV viewership data were asked to switch from TAM Media Research, the erstwhile TV measurement agency, to BARC.


This was for a month.


The second pause happened in February 2019 when the broadcasting industry as a whole was making a transition under the new tariff order that was mandated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. This was for two months.


The third pause, for three months, was initiated in October 2020 in the wake of the TRP scam busted by Mumbai police.


People in the know told Business Standard that advertisers, agencies, and some news broadcasters are in agreement that the current ratings pause should continue for some time to fix problems with the viewership measurement.


“There is a broad understanding among stakeholders within BARC that the current pause may continue for three months. But extending it beyond that would be difficult since the gap would be too long. Media planning will be a challenge with dated information,” said a senior executive with a top media agency.


R S Sodhi, MD of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, the maker of Amul, and a high-profile advertiser, says: “The question is, how do you win credibility back. If it is taking a little more time to fix the problems, so be it.”


April will see the return of the IPL to its Springtime schedule, implying that broadcasters, advertisers, and agencies will be unwilling to accept a ratings pause, even though it remains restricted to the news genre.


While the share of viewership of the news genre in total viewership is only 5 per cent, its share of advertising is double that, at 10 per cent.


BARC was expected to increase the number of panel homes from 44,000 to 50,000 and introduce multiple checks to reduce the tampering of data. However, nothing has been communicated to stakeholders yet.

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