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BARC India scales up drive against panel tampering, takes action against 12 channels

18 cases reported to Disciplinary Committee in 28 months, including six from Tamil Nadu, five from AP/Telangana and one from Karnataka

To make audience measurement more robust in India, BARC India has upped its vigilance drive with stronger counter measures to protect the system from panel tampering and other unfair practices used to manipulate television viewership.

In March 2017, BARC India had set up an independent Disciplinary Committee (DisComm) to probe complaints of viewership malpractice. Over the last 28 months, 18 cases have been referred to the DisComm with evidence of such malpractice.

The highest instances have been reported from South India markets: six from Tamil Nadu, five from AP/Telangana and one from Karnataka. Penal action has been taken against 12 channels in the country. It may be recalled that FIRs were filed in Telangana and arrests made in Karnataka and Gwalior.

The DisComm is headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal, former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, and has representation from all three industry bodies—Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF), Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI). The committee also comprises D. Shivanandan, former Mumbai Police Commissioner and Maharashtra DGP, and Paritosh Joshi, an independent technical expert.

BARC India is also evangelising initiatives such as Sample Return Path Data (SRPD), which will not only make the viewership data more robust but help address the issue of tampering of panel homes. BARC India has a strict code of conduct for redressing viewership malpractices that has to be followed by all entities subscribing to BARC India’s weekly service.

BARC India has also engaged with TRAI and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to get regulatory support and legal provisions to make panel tampering a punishable offence. BARC India and several industry members have made the point in TRAI’s Consultation Paper on TV viewership measurement.

“The functioning of the Disciplinary Committee has been extremely professional and effective since its inception in March 2017. Panel home tampering has long plagued the industry and the giant strides BARC India has taken to tackle this menace and the sanctions imposed have proved to an effective deterrent. Along with my other committee members, we are firm in our resolve to eradicate such malpractices from the industry and shall impose appropriate sanctions as and when required,” said Justice Mudgal.

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