India’s television measurement body BARC India has called as ‘fake’ a video sting operation that was circulating as a purported proof of tampering of panel homes by TV9 Network.
TV9 Network runs Hindi news channel TV9 Bharatvarsh, which suddenly shot to the no. 2 position in the Hindi news genre, according to BARC India data (for Week 25 (TG 15+ All, HSM markets).
Last week, several broadcasters shared the video with BARC India, requesting the rating body to carry out a detailed investigation into the allegedly compromised homes and find replacements.
While BARC individually replied to the broadcasters, saying it was investing the matter, the rating body told BestMediaInfo.com, “We are quite aware of the unfortunate fake videos being circulated. We have investigated those who appear in those videos and they have clearly stated they were ‘paid to say what they did’.”
Even though BARC India has given a clean chit to TV9 and called the video sting operation as “fake”, the locations of the confidential panel homes have been exposed. However, BARC did not say how soon those “compromised” homes will be changed.
BARC India requested its subscribers not to believe in such videos. “It is unfortunate if our stakeholders/subscribers start believing in these. BARC undertakes stringent validation checks before the data is published. BARC India’s vigilance team has been doing a tremendous job over the years and they have always been quick to respond to any kind of anomaly in the data. BARC India’s Oversight Committee validates the data process each week,” the BARC spokesperson said.
The news broadcasters, in their letters to BARC India, have been pointing out the growth of TV9’s Hindi news channel TV9 Bharatvarsh as “unexpected” and “unusual” on the basis of various parameters, including “unexpectedly” high TSV (time spent per viewer) since 4-5 weeks. When the video surfaced, the channels last week asked BARC to suspend the viewership of TV9 group channels.
While channels of different genres have been flagging about the inconsistency of data for more than two months, the Hindi news genre expressed their suspicion over the growth of TV9 Bharatvarsh. Several broadcasters term the growth “not in tandem” with the industry.
Denying any inconsistency in data, BARC India said, “We are definitive the data released is ‘what India watches’. There is no inconsistency of data. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 and implementation of the lockdown, forcing people to work from home, TV viewing increased and hence, viewing of news channels increased three-fold. With unlock in various parts of the country, TV viewing has naturally dropped.”
The rating body denied any kind of laxity in the vigilance process. “All data released is subject to extremely high vigilance, data scrutiny and is ratified by the board-appointed Oversight Committee. We have our checks and balance in place. It is likely some broadcasters may not have anticipated one specific or a few specific channels to grow. BARC India’s vigilance team has been doing a tremendous job over the years and they have always been quick to respond to any kind of anomaly in the data. It is due to our vigilance team that in the past too, we have called out the names of the subscriber channels that tried to infiltrate sample panel homes,” BARC India said.
Multiple players BestMediaInfo.com spoke to over the past few weeks expressed their displeasure or annoyance at the replies they have been receiving, which did not give them a satisfactory answer. Sometimes, the replies are one-liners, they said.
Responding to this, BARC India said, “We continue to be deeply engaged with our subscribers and address all their issues well on time. We have done so diligently and maintained the high standards on quality and timeliness despite the lockdown. The communication between us and subscribers is a privileged communication. The complaint redressal system is well in place and is available on our website. It seems you are misinformed or misadvised.”