THE GOVERNMENT on Wednesday asked Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), responsible for measuring television viewership in India, to immediately release Television Rating Points (TRP) for news channels. It also said that the data will be computed on a four-week rolling average from now on.
A Joint Working Group has also been created with government and industry representatives to come up with specifications and protocols to leverage Return Path Data from set-top boxes, and address resulting privacy concerns.
The TRPs for news channels will be released after a gap of nearly 15 months. BARC stopped publishing the TRP for news channels in October 2020 after allegations of rigging by some news channels emerged. Soon after, the government formed a committee headed by Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati to look into the TRP practices. The committee submitted its report exactly a year ago, on January 12, 2021.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said that in spirit of the TRP Committee Report and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI’s) recommendation, BARC has “undertaken revision in its processes, protocols, oversight mechanism and initiated changes in governance structure etc.”
It said that the “reconstitution of the Board and the Technical Committee to allow for the induction of Independent Members have also been initiated by BARC” and a permanent Oversight Committee has also been formed. The access protocols for data have been revamped and tightened, the ministry said.
BARC has indicated that in view of the changes undertaken by it, it is reaching out to related constituencies to explain the new proposals and is ready to commence the release the ratings as per the new protocols, the statement said.
In light of these events, the ministry asked BARC to release the news ratings “with immediate effect and also to release the last three months data, for the genre in a monthly format, for fair and equitable representation of true trends”.
Under the new system, the reporting of news and niche genres, which have a smaller sample size making them prone to rigging, will be on a “four-week rolling average concept”, the ministry said.
The government has also set up a Joint Working Group, as recommended by the TRP panel in its report. This group, also to be headed by Vempati, will consider if Return Path Data (RPD) capabilities can be used for measuring TRPs. It was one of the recommendations of the TRP committee, under which viewership can also be gauged from set-top boxes.
The Joint Working Group, which will include representatives from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Bureau of Indian Standards, BARC, DTH Association and All India Digital Cable Federation, will submit its report in four months.
It will study audience measurement, international practices, security of the viewership data, and will have to come up with minimum standards for RPD capable set-top boxes, protocols for certifications and auditing, and common standards to the existing rating methodology to integrate with RPD.