So no one killed the news TV ratings: ring a bell?


Insufficient sample size could be a problem for Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) reports for some genres. Some, like the English specialty channels, have even smaller samples than for news. Their ratings, however, have not been fixed. So we have a haunting question: Who blocked Indian news ratings and why?

One of the board directors of the News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA), of which I am a member, contacted me a day before the ratings were discontinued. He polled me on a board decision to exit BARC ratings. I opposed it because I could foresee that such a decision would result in a serious loss of credibility and revenue for the news genre. The damage was done a day later.

On the other hand, the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF), which is the only government-recognized association (where I am vice-president) of its kind, has knocked on all doors for the resumption of ratings. All the NBF heard was, “It wasn’t me. “

Despite the illogical suspension, an industry-appointed BARC technical committee apparently approved some revisions and gave the green light for ratings to resume in July of this year. But even today, for the same unknown reasons, the odds remain at a standstill.

Fortunately, the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) intervened and the Minister assured us that the hearings would resume soon. But then, who should take responsibility for the irreparable loss of reputation and revenue for all of the news genre over the past year? The lack of audience ratings continues to hurt the income of around 400 news channels, most of which are free and therefore depend on advertising as their sole source of income.

There is no such thing as a perfect system. BARC corrections are an ongoing process. Withholding data from one genre for more than a year, while data from other genres with an 88% revenue share is published by the same organization on the basis of the same sample of households, is unfair and discriminatory.

I have been told that professional misconduct is the number one issue cited by newscasters who have supported or requested the suspension of BARC ratings. I have a few suggestions that might make BARC malpractice proof (if applicable).

First, the raw data collected programmatically by BARC should be stored concurrently in the custody of an independent body such as the Indian Institute of Statistics, or similar, outside of BARC’s control. This means that the data collected in the sample houses will be stored on two servers: one with BARC and another elsewhere. This will ensure that this raw data remains as is, tamper-proof, for future reference.

Second, any interference in the analysis of the data, such as the elimination of any exceptions or aberrations, must be carried out under a transparent and uniform standard operating procedure, and must be available for audit review.

As an obvious solution, the sample households should be checked and renewed periodically to ensure that they provide a fair representation of the viewing population of the country.

Sampling insufficiency can be corrected if minute-by-minute data is not collected for low-audience genres. Why would the news, for example, need data every half hour or even daily?

We cannot fabricate news, and ratings cannot influence news coverage. If that happens, it would be in the realm of content creation, compromising journalistic judgment.

Advertisers pay no extra for a chosen niche on a news channel, unlike the practice with general entertainment. On the contrary, for any change in the advertising rate of a news channel, advertisers generally take the average data over 12 to 16 weeks into account when making decisions.

What the kind of information needs is assessment data on a monthly moving average, so that TRPs are only used as a tool to measure advertising potential and do not tamper with journalistic content. I heard the Minister of I&B express the same views.

If the sample applies to the whole day – or why not even a week or a month?

If the sample is not an accurate representation of the universe (i.e. all Indians) then the broad reach of television programs may alter thought processes and the construction of mass psychology. in the wrong direction. We need to be fairly specific in the process and ensure periodic verification by experts.

With a sample of 44,000 households, India is doing well. However, considering the diversity of India, is this enough? Let’s leave that for another day.

The idea is not to argue against having more households in the sample. The ban on hearing for the genre of news is, however, detrimental to the very spirit of democracy.

That these ratings be restored as soon as possible to put an end to this discrimination.

Barun Das is Managing Director of TV9 Networks.

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