BARC to stop TRP ratings for news channels for 8-12 weeks

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on October 16, 2020 Published on October 15, 2020

Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, on Thursday, said that it will cease publishing the weekly individual ratings for news channels for 8-12 weeks. BARC will continue to release weekly audience estimates for the genre of news by State and language

This comes close on the heels of the Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation controversy after the Mumbai Police busted a racket by some news channels to show better ratings.

While the TRP or a similar metric system is needed to help advertisers make investment decisions according to their target audience, there is a need for greater transparency and vigilance, with some of the suggestions put forth by experts to leverage technology instead of relying on physical devices and a transparent audit by multiple agencies.

“Since TRP is by far the only metric used as far as measuring the TV reach is concerned, we cannot bypass it. Now, as we can see from the controversy, it’s flawed and needs to be fixed,” Anuj Kapoor, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, told BusinessLine.

People Meter devices are installed in certain homes and they are assumed to be the representative of the whole sample – India or the specific geographic region – and then this data is used to infer the TRPs, he said. “The assumption here is that the selected houses are randomly selected and the houses should not know that they are being monitored, nor should the advertisers know which are these houses. If any of these assumptions don’t hold, there’s a bias in the calculated rating,” Kapoor explained.

To fix this, we need transparency and vigilance – a transparent audit by multiple agencies are needed to make sure that the privileged information about the houses that are being monitored is not shared with brands and not with the television channels – otherwise, it can influence the behavior of people watching the shows as well as the brands, he added.

I have always wondered at the methodology of 44,000 households as a proxy for a nation of approximately 20 crore households, said Renuka Kamath, Professor of Marketing Associate Dean - Academic Services and External Relations, SPJIMR, Mumbai.

“The sampling and the choice of household could never have been representative...That advertising revenues are driven by such a metric is unfathomable,” she added.

“Technology should be leveraged rather than a physical device being placed in the household, which can be open to tampering. Channels can be asked to participate. Even then, I guess the key is to ensure the ethicality of the measurement and for bodies such as BARC to implement a system that lends itself to credibility and above suspicion,” said Kamath.

Apart from vigilance and transparency, the proposed data protection law should include some benchmarks in terms of the implementation of the TRP metric, said Kapoor. “In short, the measurement system and metric are fine conceptually, but its implementation needs to be safeguarded,” he added.

Since BARC’s decision to ease publishing the weekly individual ratings for all news channels is only for around 8-12 weeks, it certainly won’t impact advertising on TV news channels as TRP is only one of the inputs that brands rely on, said Ashish Bhasin, CEO, APAC and Chairman, India-Dentsu Aegis Network. “I feel the whole impact of TRPs on news channels is overhyped. I think the bigger focus really has to be that news channels need to come together and agree on a basic code of behaviour and conduct,” he said.

“I feel most smart brand managers knew the science behind the TRP ratings. They took media planning decisions carefully. Brand Managers have largely taken taken TRPs as a starting point and then seen the pattern that TV critiques have commented on. They also rely on their advertising agency to help them be more realistic or grounded so that they are in sync with the industry and competitor spends,” said Kamath.

Besides, planning is done on a quarterly or annual basis or on the basis of campaigns, and data up until now is already available, apart from the fact that data will still be released on the basis of language and State, as Bhasin pointed out. “So, there is enough data that is there with an advertiser or a media agency to be able to make an intelligent decision.”

The credibility of the channels in question is at stake, and if they don’t come out clean after this, advertisers will be more conservative in using their medium for their brands, cautioned Kumar.

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Published on October 15, 2020
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