BARC's RLD fizzles out on its debut for broadcasters

The roll-out of RLD apparently turned out to be a futile exercise on the part of the I&B ministry aiming to address the grievances from broadcasters regarding manipulations of television ratings using external interventions

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BARC's RLD fizzles out on its debut for broadcasters

The much-hyped respondent-level data, commonly referred to as raw-level data or RLD rolled out on Thursday for broadcasters has not found enough takers as yet.

Following an order from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting with an objective to check manipulation in television ratings, BARC India had announced that the RLD would be available for broadcasters beginning October 12.

However, the roll-out of RLD apparently turned out to be a futile exercise on the part of the I&B ministry aiming to address the grievances from broadcasters regarding manipulations of television ratings using external interventions.

Several broadcasters, who earlier sounded very optimistic about the I&B order, told that what they are being offered at a cost of Rs 15 lakh is a dump of data in a format which cannot be used as it is.

“BARC took over two months from the date of order for the roll-out and we were expecting that it will be shared in a separate segment within the YUMI software. But when we were given the samples of data from BARC following a presentation, we found that it is not usable in its current form,” said one of the executives at a national news channel.

In order to use the data, a broadcaster will either have to buy a subscription of software from TAM which will cost them between Rs 6 to 10 lakh per annum or they will have to develop their own dashboard.

“First is that the TAM software is not meeting our requirements besides inflating the cost of the data from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 25 lakh. Secondly, it will take at least four months to get a dashboard developed at our end. In such a situation, it does not make any sense to subscribe to the RLD in its current form which will only eat up our resources without any possible yield in terms of revenue,” the executive added.

Why it isn't easy to use RLD in its current form

Last week, BARC India shared a sample of the RLD with the broadcasters.

The data is in three parts - Demographics, Playout or Programme and Viewership.

A broadcaster will receive two parts of the data in excel/.csv files while one of the data is in a JSON file. The JSON file is not readable without being processed by the software engineers.

Moreover, the data pertaining to the programme and demographics shared in Excel/.csv files is also unusable in the current format. It mentions channel ID and programme ID.

Unless dedicated software is programmed to read those IDs, one cannot draw any reference from that data.

A news broadcast executive told that we already pay a huge some for the viewership data.

“If we are paying a certain additional fee, that data should at least have been readable. Why is BARC charging Rs 15 lakh for dumping the data?” the executive asked.

Outcome of RLD for news genre

When asked, an owner of a regional channel from southern India told that his channel’s research team discovers the manipulations in ratings on the basis of viewership trends. On the other hand, our distribution team on the ground keeps flagging manipulations at the household level.

“Many times, we have submitted proofs of manipulations to the ratings agency. Nothing happened in any case. What will happen if we raise more concerns after spending Rs 15 lakh? Will it change anything?” he said.

“Why should I invest in opening a research laboratory? For that, we are already paying BARC but unfortunately, they failed to deliver on their promise to give us unadulterated data. Who does not know the data coming to us is influenced by many external or internal factors? Like all other news players, we are already under huge distress. Anything which does not help us increase our number of advertisers and rates does not matter to us,” he added.

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