Furious back channel parleys were on the whole of yesterday and are set to continue this morning. BestMediaInfo understands that a solution is likely to be worked out by mid-day today
BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | May 6, 2015
This is not how the script was meant to be. The broadcast industry has a brand new, state-of-the-art audience measurement system. Just last week, on April 29, 2015, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) rolled out its first television viewership ratings. A week later, today, just when BARC is all set to unveil its second week’s data, it has run into a bizarre hiccup: the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has sent a letter “requesting” BARC to not release data till it completes its registration formalities.
The truth of the matter is that BARC is not at all fault; it seems to have run into what could at best be described as a bureaucratic red tape. BARC had applied for registration six months ago, in November 2014. It was a smooth rollout last week. The MIB, Prasar Bharti, Doordarshan along with hundreds of television channels were party to the creation of the new ratings system. Nobody in government seemed to have noticed the registration issue then. Suddenly comes the legal rulebook – a week later!
At the time of filing this report, there is some uncertainty whether BARC will come out with the data today. Furious back channel parleys were on the whole of yesterday and are set to continue this morning. BestMediaInfo understands that a solution is likely to be worked out by mid-day today. In fact, the stakeholders of BARC are almost confident that they will announce the ratings today, maybe with some delay of a few hours.
When contacted, Punit Goenka, Chairman of BARC and MD & CEO – Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited, said, "BARC is a joint industry body that has been set up following the 2008 Amit Mitra Committee report. As far as BARC is concerned, we will not contravene any guidelines issued by the Government."
Shashi Sinha, Chairman, Technical Committee, BARC India and CEO, IPG India Mediabrands, commented, “This is a discriminatory practice as we had applied to MIB for registration in November 2014 but due to certain reasons we have not got any strong lead from them and it has been pending from their end. Also, other rating systems too are not registered. Whether the data will come out or no is a decision that will be taken by the BARC board.”
What Sinha is alluding to is the fact that TAM would be releasing its data without any hindrance even though TAM has also not received its registration yet.
Meanwhile, TAM Media Research put out a statement yesterday that reads: “For TAM Media Research, weekly TV viewership data release to the industry will continue as normal. Pursuant to the interim order issued by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi on Feb 12, 2014, 1.7(a), 1.7(d), 16.1 & 16.2 of impugned guidelines have been stayed till the disposal of the Writ Petition 494/2014 (Kantar Matter).”
Sources in BARC point out that the observation of the Delhi HC is an outcome of the cross-holdings case, and is not about ratings per se.
The broadcast industry is not amused. A whopping Rs 180 crore has been invested in the BARC system, and broadcasters have put in an additional Rs 100 crore for watermarking of their channels. A majority of the TV networks and media agencies have already terminated their contracts with TAM. Lack of weekly ratings is akin to cutting off the lifeline of an industry that rides on Rs 18,000 crore in ad revenues.