Does more mean merrier or messier?

On Monday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) unveiled a consultation paper on the formulation of a National Broadcast Policy. Among its key recommendations is the proposal to introduce additional rating agencies. Expressing concerns over the sole reliance of the industry on BARC for ratings, the regulator has said incorporation of more rating agencies could yield more competition resulting in improved service quality and potentially lower prices for stakeholders.

With television ratings emerging as a significant point of contention within the sector in recent times, the proposal has sparked quite a debate in the industry. While some believe that the incorporation of another rating agency may provide the much-needed competition, driving innovation and boosting standards across the board, others are of the view that simply introducing another agency may not address the underlying challenges. 

Speaking in the favour of the idea, Sanjay Trehan, Digital & New Media Consultant, says that more than one rating agency would provide richer and more immersive data.

“As the ambit of the policy expands to cover broadcast equipment, uplinking, upskilling of resources and production of local content, it may be a good idea to have more than one rating agency that would provide richer, more immersive data and validation to enable actionable insights,” he opines.

Trehan, however, cautions that the parameters have to be objectively defined and data needs to be independently captured with a view to create a conducive environment for growth.

In the consultation paper, TRAI has expressed concerns about the sole reliance on the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) as the provider of rating services. According to TRAI, “BARC being the sole provider of rating services in India raises concerns about market behaviour, service quality, and cost inefficiencies, highlighting the need for additional players to encourage healthy competition. Competition acts as a catalyst for innovation, prompting BARC and other entities to adopt new technologies and methodologies, ensuring continuous evolution in line with media landscape changes.” 

Additionally, a competitive environment acts as a natural deterrent against rating manipulation, as multiple agencies vie for accuracy and credibility, it further mentioned. According to the CP, independence from industry stakeholders is crucial for ensuring a neutral and unbiased approach to audience measurement. When measurement agencies are free from industry affiliations or influences, the process remains objective, transparent, and untainted by external pressures, enhancing credibility and trustworthiness.

Vivek Menon, Managing Partner at NV CAPITAL, a Media & Entertainment Fund, too emphasizes that the industry may benefit from having multiple rating agencies as it will foster competition. However, he also cautions that the existing establishment of BARC, which involves collaboration among broadcasters, advertising agencies and advertisers, might present challenges to the adoption of another rating agency. 

“Given that the growth of digital and the broadcasting industry is plateauing, adoption of a new rating agency by stakeholders of the broadcasting industry looks doubtful,” said Menon. 

Another industry insider acknowledges that while the current measurement surveys, spearheaded by BARC, are generally robust, concerns persist regarding objectivity and transparency, particularly due to the involvement of media owners. Also, the fact that it BARC operates under the governance of various committees adds a layer of oversight.

The insider also highlights another key problem with TV audience measurement: while overall data may appear stable and reliable, obtaining accurate insights from smaller demographic segments, such as specific age groups or regional viewership patterns, poses challenges. For instance, when examining viewership of English news channels among males aged 15 to 35 in Uttar Pradesh, the sample sizes inherently shrink, leading to less precise data. This disparity underscores the complexity of accurately measuring audience engagement across diverse segments within the television landscape.

Meanwhile, when TRAI issued the pre-consultation for the broadcast policy last year, the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) had opposed formation of any other rating agency. The IBDF had then argued that BARC formally represents all stakeholders and is best equipped to set audience research guidelines. BARC is uniquely placed to commission and extract high-quality research which does not require government intervention.

According to IBDF, BARC being an industry-led body and represented by three competing stakeholders, i.e IBDF, ISA & AAAI, and having no cross-holdings and conflict of interest, is able to provide unbiased and accurate ratings by following a transparent process. 

IBDF said that existence of multiple rating agencies may result in variance and possible conflicts as data of different agencies will be based on the sample of different sample households, the output from different agencies can differ, which may lead to the possibility of conflict of data.

 “Also, different agencies may choose different parameters and metrics to provide ratings which will result in different outputs in varied units of measurements, thus creating conflicts. If more television rating agencies are allowed to compete then the sample size will reduce and might even get scattered demographically and multiple agencies will lead to an increased cost of operations which will be passed on to the end users/ consumers,” it mentioned.

“It is recommended that the present system of having a single industry-led body with representation from three competing stakeholders should continue,” said IBDF. 



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Antea Morbioli

Hola soy Antea Morbioli Periodista con 2 años de experiencia en diferentes medios. Ha cubierto noticias de entretenimiento, películas, programas de televisión, celebridades, deportes, así como todo tipo de eventos culturales para MarcaHora.xyz desde 2023.

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