News rating

Will rollout of news rankings data be delayed despite MIB green light?

Even as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has asked Broadcasters Audience Research Council (BARC) India to release news rankings with immediate effect, there is debate in the industry about the start actual data deployment.

Although BARC India is tight-lipped on the overall development, some industry players believe it will be at least a few weeks before news ranking data is made available to subscribers.

Under the revised system, news and niche genre reporting will follow a “four-week moving average concept”. The MIB has also asked BARC to publish gender data for the past three months in a monthly format for a fair and equitable representation of true trends.

“The actual rollout of ratings data may not happen as soon as expected as there are technical details involved. The first set of new data will only come after four weeks. It could take at least 8 to 10 weeks for the first set of data to be released,” a senior executive at a major news network said on condition of anonymity.

TV ad sales officials say the delay in releasing the data will mean that news channels will not be able to take advantage of the news data pick-up during the assembly election period. Election results for the five state assemblies will be announced on March 10.

“If the data rollout is delayed by eight weeks or more, the news genre will not be able to capitalize on the news data recovery. In the absence of data, news channels, especially smaller ones , have been badly affected,” said an advertising sales manager at a leading network.

However, some industry players say there is no reason to delay the release of news rankings, as BARC already collects data for the genre. “BARC is already collecting data, so there is no reason to postpone it. If the data is ready to be released, there is absolutely no reason to postpone it now,” said a veteran media official.

A senior official at a news release company says BARC India cannot stop releasing data beyond a certain point because the MIB has instructed them to release news data with immediate effect . “Technically, there shouldn’t be a problem because BARC is ready with the data. They need to start publishing the data based on a four-week rolling average,” the official said.

The veteran media executive quoted above also said MIB orders are not legally binding on BARC. “MIB does not own BARC. BARC is an independent organization that was created by three industry bodies. This idea that the government should have a veto over BARC is absurd,” he added. However, it is highly unlikely that BARC violates the MIB.

He also pointed out that the TV rating guidelines under which BARC India was registered came long after the audience measurement body was established. “Both TRAI and MIB have regulatory powers over broadcasters within the limits of the law. There is no law under which BARC is regulated. It is governed by a set of rules under which it is supposed to operate,” the executive said.

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