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Against public interest to publish misleading data on website, says BARC on TRAI’s show cause

The regulator is adamant on making the viewership data available for the general public despite the fact that the numbers were never stopped for its subscribers and stakeholders

Responding to a show-cause notice issued by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for not publishing viewership data because of the disruption caused by the implementation of the new tariff order, BARC India has reiterated that it was not in the public interest to publish the misleading data on website.

The regulator is adamant on making the viewership data available for the general public despite the fact that the figures were never stopped for its subscribers and stakeholders.

In February, TRAI had directed the industry body to release the viewership data (for the week ending February 8 and subsequent weeks) on its website.

A month later, in a show-cause notice dated March 29, the regulator asked BARC India to explain by April 5 why action should not be taken against it for contravention of sections of the TRAI Act.

Quoting sources, new agency PTI reported that TRAI was of the view that it would not be appropriate to stop rating of channels as these changes were an outcome of consumer choice and a real reflection of market dynamics. TRAI reminded BARC India that it is governed by provisions of the TRAI Act and thus is required to comply with the orders, regulations, and directions issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the regulator from time to time.

In an email reply, a BARC India spokesperson said, “BARC India is a joint industry body, and operates under self-regulation model, in compliance with Ministry of I&B Guidelines. In the NTO transition period, due to distribution disruptions (which have been well documented in media reports), there is significant volatility in data.

“Due to this, and the fact that data in this period does not truly reflect viewers’ choice, BARC India Technical Committee and Board took a decision to temporarily suspend placing the limited set of data our website.

“Putting such misleading data on the website would be against public interest and could be misused by vested interests. BARC is constantly monitoring the ground situation on this. We have made detailed submissions to TRAI and MIB, backed by data, on several occasions.

“Also, we would like to reiterate that there has been no stoppage of data to our subscribers. Every week, our clients have been receiving weekly data without any disruption.”

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