I&B Ministry asks BARC to release news ratings with immediate effect

This comes after over a year of suspension of television news ratings following the controversy surrounding the alleged TRP scam which came to the fore in October 2020.
I&B Minister Anurag Thakur
I&B Minister Anurag Thakur
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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) on Wednesday asked Indian broadcasters' body BARC to release news ratings with immediate effect after the council said it has taken initiatives to revise its protocols and mechanisms. This comes after over a year of suspension of television news ratings following the controversy surrounding the alleged TRP (television rating points) scam which came to the fore in October 2020. 

The ministry asked the Broadcasters Audience and Research Council (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. According to the revised system, the reporting of News and Niche Genres shall be on a 'four week rolling average concept', the ministry said in a statement. 

The ministry has also set up a 'working group' under the chairmanship of Prasar Bharti CEO for consideration of leveraging the Return Path Data (RPD) capabilities for the use of TRP services, as also recommended by TRAI and the TRP Committee Report. The committee shall submit its report in four months' time, the ministry said. 

Reacting to the development, Rajat Sharma, India TV Editor-in-Chief and Chairman of News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA) said, "NBDA's stand is vindicated as the ministry stamps the room for improvement, acknowledges the deficiencies and puts a timeline to ratings release and systematic corrections." 

While directing BARC to release news ratings, the ministry noted, "In the spirit of the TRP Committee Report and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI's) recommendation of April 24, 2020, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has undertaken revision in its processes, protocols, oversight mechanism and initiated changes in governance structure etc." 

"The reconstitution of the Board and the Technical Committee to allow for the induction of Independent Members have also been initiated by BARC. A permanent Oversight Committee has also been formed. The access protocols for data have been revamped and tightened," it said.

BARC has indicated that in view of the changes undertaken by it, they are reaching out to related constituencies to explain the new proposals and are in readiness to actually commence the release according to the new protocols. 

In an official order, the ministry said the Joint Working Group will study different aspects of the data capturing including RPD in context of the audience measurement, international practices, security of the viewership data etc. 

"The Group may study successful global best practices in RPD, like that of Canada, the models/ pilots undertaken in lndia by BARC and other independent experiments by DTH operators and other relevant stakeholders and formulate a mandate for combining the data sources including RPD, if so decided with the existing sampling methodology(ies)," it said. 

The Joint Working Group shall have Prasar Bharati CEO S S Vempati as the chairperson, and five members - one each from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Bureau of Indian Standards, BARC, All India Digital Cable Federation and Harit Nagpal, president of the DTH Association. 

The group will specify minimum standards for RPD capable STBS, SOPs for certification and audit of the same. It will specify common protocols, data standards and modifications to current ratings methodology so that data from RPD capable STBS could be integrated into the current TV ratings system.

"Additionally, specify minimum standards for any smart phone-based apps to augment the above proposed RPD system for integration into the current TV ratings. Also specify for SOPs for certification and audit of the same," the ministry said. 

The group will evolve a consensus for how such different data sets including RPD/ smart phone-based data collection will be priced/costs shared within the framework of the TV ratings system. It will specify consent-based privacy framework to govern all such data collection and use within TV ratings, and establish timelines for rollout of above with a clear roadmap to guide all stakeholders while laying out points of responsibility for the same. 

"The secretariat for the Joint Working Group shall be provided by Prasar Bharati. The Group may also invite any domain expert(s), and stakeholders representatives for its deliberations, if required. The Group shall submit its report to the Ministry of lnformation and Broadcasting within four months of the date of issue of this order," the ministry said.

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