A day after Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) came out with its ratings on Week 19 of 2017, declaring Arnab Goswami-led Republic TV as number one, rival channels have pulled out of the TV ratings agency, reports Economic Times.
What have the channels done?
English news channels affiliated to the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) have pulled out of BARC. They have also removed watermarking from their feeds.
What are they upset about?
The BARC released Republic TV ratings on Thursday despite requests and even threats from the NBA.
On 17 May, NBA President Ashish Bagga had written to BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta urging him not to release Republic TV’s viewership data until it stops running on multiple feeds.
The NBA objected to Republic TV's presence on multiple LCNs/genres on several DPOs, distributors and MSOs - basically its presence across multiple frequencies - and asked BARC to withhold Republic TV’s viewership data until it stops the alleged malpractice, as reported by Indiantelevision.com.
The BARC clearly ignored the objections.
What is NBA saying?
After BARC went ahead with releasing Republic TV's ratings, NBA secretary general Annie Joseph wrote to BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta on Thursday:
“Given your indifference to the serious situation at hand, we are left with no option but to advice some of our aggrieved members to opt out of BARC’s watermarking system with immediate effect until there is appropriate redressal of our grievance. We hope good sense prevails and urgent corrective action is taken by BARC."
"We find that despite our two letters, you have gone ahead and released the inflated and corrupt data for Republic TV as of this morning. This has serious implications and has caused irreversible damage to India’s existing English news TV channels."
Is NBA right fair in its objection?
Going by BARC's defense in the case, the channels' move to pull out of the ratings agency is rather surprising.
Coming down heavily on broadcasters opting to pull out of BARC, the agency said that it's not a regulatory body for resolving issues concerning multiplicity of LCNs for a channel. It even maintained that these "these issues should be sorted among broadcasters themselves rather than dragging BARC India into these".
Here's a statement that BARC shared with ScoopWhoop News:
"The fact is that this is a common distribution strategy among various TV channels, particularly News Broadcasters, to place their channels on multiple LCNs and across genres in the past, and they continue to do so even now.
"Based on information collected from various monitoring agencies we have seen that multiple English news channels on different occasions have placed themselves on multiple LCNs viz across 64 distribution networks during rebranding/revamp, across 16 networks during budget coverage, across 12 networks during UP elections etc. It has become a usual practice.
"We are clear about our position – we measure viewership of channels basis their unique Watermark ID, irrespective of the platform the channel is available on or the number of instances within the platform. For channels having same watermark on more than one LCN, viewership gets aggregated and reported as a single channel and not multiple channels. BARC India neither monitors channel placements across the various DTH platforms/cable head-ends in the country, nor does it have the mandate to do so.
"In the past, we have measured multiple LCN instances of channels as per our policy, and reported them as one channel and the same principle has been applied to our data released yesterday. BARC India is not the regulatory body for resolving issues concerning multiplicity of LCNs for a channel.
"The fact is that this is a common distribution strategy among various TV channels, particularly News Broadcasters, to place their channels on multiple LCNs and across genres in the past, and they continue to do so even now."
Quite interestingly, the NBA has also written to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) seeking action against Republic TV.
And it's for the first time that the NBA had approached TRAI in such a case against a news channel.