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Landing page controversy: TV industry gets a committee to oversee BARC's outlier policy

BARC has been claiming its current process is 100% robust in identifying reach outliers, which could happen for landing pages in big cable networks for smaller viewed channels. But a section in the broadcasting industry—which has been doubtful of transparency—has managed to put in place a two-member expert committee to oversee the process

(L) Nakul Chopra and Praveen Tripathi (R)

The outlier policy of BARC India that came under scanner after the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) legalised the usage of landing page will now be reviewed and monitored by a two-member committee appointed by the board of the joint industry body.

Former BARC India chairman Nakul Chopra, and Praveen Tripathi are the two members of the committee.

BARC India’s outlier policy, which was in place since the beginning, keeps a check on any unjustified spike in the viewership of any channel. But the policy landed in a controversy when BARC India released data for Week 22 without filtering out outliers following TDSAT order. The week saw CNN-News18 positioned as the No. 1 English news channel, upsetting every other rival in the genre.

The outlier detection process was automated for large channels where it was easy to catch any major variation. However, for the English news genre, where the viewership base is too less compared with others, the automation was not effective. Hence, the manual process was being followed only for the smaller genres.

"BARC has and does maintain that they cannot identify Landing pages. The process can, however, identify reach outliers which could happen for landing pages in big cable networks for smaller viewed channels or when there is a distribution intervention like activation or improvement in availability. The same principle applies to content interventions also," a BARC spokesperson said.

"Most analysts who keenly watch these numbers, especially for genres such as English news and business news, do know this since the landing page discussions started some time back. We, on our part, also cannot expose the outlier algorithm, which will then make the system prone to manipulation," the spokesperson added.

Many stakeholders have suspected that there’s enough scope for bias to creep in when the process is manual and put pressure on the joint industry body to solve this issue. also wrote on Wednesday that a section of the English news broadcast industry is of the view that the outlier policy lacks transparency.

As a result, the two-member monitoring committee has been constituted by the BARC board.

"In line with the best practices, the board has appointed a two-member committee which will look into the process and suggest modifications if any. They are industry veterans and best suited to do this being independent and not affiliated to any interested parties. This is a welcome move and will really help in giving confidence and suggesting changes, if any," the spokesperson added.

What's the need for appointing a committee if BARC feels the policy is robust?

BARC for long has been claiming that its process is robust. In a statement it has also said that it can't make its algorithm public. 

But the industry body has been unable to explain the need for this committee if the process was robust. There's still no clarity how this committee would oversee the functioning of Outlier policy.

A certain section in the TV news industry is claiming that favouritism could creep in the current manual system as there was a scope for manipulation.

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