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Commentary: More searching questions than answers in front of BARC India Board

The BARC India Board will have to rise above operational issues and think of fixing the gaps that have pushed the institution into this mess. As the probe into the TRP scam continues, the effort to restore the credibility BARC has to be carried out simultaneously and swiftly

First, the latest on the ‘high-profile’ TRP scam, which is no more a stakeholders’ matter as Arnab Goswami has added his viewers over the last 20 days. The case is in Bombay High Court as Mumbai Police continues to investigate it. The attempt to bring CBI to this case through the UP government was halted by Maharashtra but there is no clarity over the seriousness of the central investigation agency in the case.

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Multiple media observers felt the idea of CBI was only to stop Mumbai Police’s investigation despite the fact that the agency will avoid getting into the matter of news channels. While nothing can be predicted in the case, it is being linked to the Bihar elections just like Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case and the industry is in a wait-and-watch mode until the formation of the next Bihar government.

Amid all this, BARC India is facing unprecedented uncertainty over its future and the BARC India Board is seemingly yet not clear on the future course of action. The board will have to rise from operational issues and think of repairing the gaps, which has pushed the institution into this mess. The effort to restore the credibility of the system has to be carried out simultaneously and swiftly.

It is well known that the news genre has been after the life of BARC India every week with every variation in viewership. Tampering people meters is as old as the entire viewership measurement mechanism since TAM days. And both TAM and BARC had found hundreds of cases as on date, which were let go after a warning at level-1. Repeated offenders— which is level-2—were reported to police and BARC India always struggled to get an FIR registered against them due to lack of penal provisions for such cases in the law.

Recently in July, alleged videos of people meter tampering by TV9 were sent to BARC India, which was termed “Fake” by the rating body within a few hours.

Cut to today. The industry is suffering because of the far-fetched and overzealous action, which many say wasn’t not thought through well.

The same industry is asking if BARC India lacked farsightedness of the implications of going to police in such a charged environment, which led to this unprecedented crisis?

Was the BARC India Board informed about such big step and, if so, didn’t it weigh the consequences of this?

Will BARC India continue working with Hansa Research whose employee had allegedly installed a people meter in his home?

While the stakeholders and BARC India Board are cautiously watching the situation, the industry is well within its rights to seek the answers to these searching questions and actions to fix the operational shortcomings.

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