BARC told to resume TV News ratings – TRP Committee’s report accepted

Acting on the spirit of ‘TRP Committee Report’ and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) recommendation of greater transparency in Television Rating Points (TRP), the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has been instructed to resume the process of releasing TRP for news channels.

Expressing satisfaction over the acceptance of the TRP Committee report, the CEO of Prasar Bharati who chaired the TRP Committee had this to say:

“Happy that exactly a year later the recommendations of the TRP Committee Report have been accepted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB),” Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati said in a tweet.

Thankful to fellow members of the committee for the hard work put in. Looking forward to achieving cross industry consensus on the use of Return Path Data (RPD) for TRPs, he added.

The imperative role of TRP Committee

The instruction to the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), which is responsible for measuring television viewership in India, comes after a ‘TRP Committee’ under the chairmanship of Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati was created to look into the technological advancements and interventions to strengthen the procedures for a credible and transparent rating system.

Further, the committee studied different facets of the television rating system in India as they have evolved over a period of time and carried out an appraisal of the existing system, examined TRAI recommendations, and overall industry scenario.

The committee also addressed the needs of the stakeholders and made recommendations for a robust and transparent TRP system.

The other members of the TRP committee included Dr Shalabh, Professor of Statistics, IIT Kanpur, Dr. Rajkumar Upadhyay, Executive Director, C-DOT, and Professor Pulak Ghosh, Decision Sciences Centre for Public Policy (CPP).

TRP committee’s detailed report

After several rounds of deliberations and discussions with key stakeholders, the TRP committee submitted its detailed report in January 2021.
The crux of the report for an effective rating system was aligned with nurturing a value system. The report stated, “Sophistication of algorithms, scale, and diversity of panels are no substitute for the shared values and ethics that must govern any such system”.

Further, the committee recommended, “Return Path Data (RPD) be made a mandatory capability of all future Set Top Box”. The committee stated the integration of existing RPD into the current rating mechanism data within 6 months and recommended the mandatory universalization of collection of viewership information by using the ‘Return Path Data’ (RPD) technology.

For greater transparency in the TRP system, the committee also encouraged healthy competition in the rating space by carrying out a one-time audit of BARC India’s subsidiary MDPL and removing invisible barriers.

The committee also emphasized on the need to shift towards an open data ecosystem approach where herein both algorithms and historical datasets be available and open to academics and independent researchers to analyse, validate and enrich. Key recommendations to strengthen corporate governance at BARC, bolstering technical oversight, promoting business innovations, new business models etc were also made.

The creation of Joint Working Group

To harness Return Path Data (RPD) capabilities in measuring TRPs, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has also set up a ‘Joint Working Group’, under the chairmanship of Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati.

RPD (Return Path Data) is the audience television viewing data, under which viewership can also be gauged from set-top boxes.

The Joint Working Group will include representatives from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Bureau of Indian Standards, BARC, DTH Association and All India Digital Cable

Federation, and the group will submit its report in four months.

Notably, the Joint Working Group will examine the audience measurement, international practices, security of the viewership data, and will have to come up with minimum standards for RPD (Return Path Data) capable set-top boxes, protocols for certifications and auditing, and common standards to the existing rating methodology to integrate with RPD.

The revised system for TV news TRP

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in a communique said, “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 has also been initiated by BARC.

“A permanent Oversight Committee has also been constituted. The access protocols for data have been revamped and tightened,” the official statement by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting added.

As per the instruction by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, BARC has been told to release the News ratings with immediate effect and the council will also release the last three months’ data, for the genre in a monthly format, for fair and equitable representation of true trends.

In accordance with the revised system, the reporting of News and Niche Genres shall be on a ‘four-week rolling average concept’.

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