The Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) has taken steps to provide a transparent and adaptive environment of television viewership measurement in the country. BARC is a joint industry body with three stakeholders – broadcasters, advertising and advertising/media agencies — all coming together to provide a single currency of television ratings in the country.
The ratings agency under BARC has drawn up some guidelines/ principles for fair and permissible usage of data by its subscribers. These guidelines are applicable especially when a broadcaster claims leadership position in a particular genre, time slot or geographical territory. The joint industry body in its newsletter has elaborated: “A leader is not created overnight. A given moment or in a given day part on a particular day, may show someone ahead or someone behind. This does not constitute leadership. Using such a momentary blip is a very weak foundation on which to base a leadership claim.”
Following this logic, the council has established that the period of comparison must cover at least four consecutive weeks of data and must cover at least four hours of consecutive clock hours of data. In other words, a channel/ network cannot claim leadership unless it has beaten its peers in terms of average viewership over four consecutive weeks. Additionally, it cannot consider data for less than four consecutive clock-hours of programming. So if a channel wants to claim leadership in the prime time for example, it cannot take a time slot like 8.30 pm to 9.15 pm. It has to consider content consumption over four consecutive hours.
Apart from this, the agency has outlined that no subscriber can use any tabulations other than the direct outputs of BARC India’s Broadcast Media Workstation (BMW) user interface. Any number derived by extrapolating or interpolating BMW outputs is not permitted for use in the public domain. BMW is the ratings software that the subscribers of BARC’s ratings get in order to access ratings and do analysis etc. As an added feature, the software does not churn out data for any parameters that reduce the sample size to below 200. This is one of the ways that BARC has tried to minimise margin of error, especially in case of niche channels where viewership is on the lower side.
Lastly, continuing from the TAM regime, the new ratings agency has advised subscribers not to report ratings or reach as a percentage value in the public domain. The BARC website, which updates the ratings every Thursday, also reports ratings in absolute values (in thousands) and not in percentage form.
While the joint industry body cannot take action against companies that fail to follow these guidelines, complaints to this effect can be made with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).
Apart from ensuring that the data provided by it is presented in the correct light in the public domain, the BARC ratings agency has also been proactive in releasing data when some stimulus, such as a natural calamity, sporting or political event, scandal etc, could affect the television ratings. It also includes events/stimulus specific for genres like summer and winter vacation for kids channels.