The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has proposed reviewing the structure of audience measurement and rating handled under the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). While seeking inputs for the New Broadcasting Policy, TRAI noted that the current sample size of households falls short of representing the wide landscape of television viewers. 

BARC’s current panel size is only 55,000 households, while India has over 182 million television viewing households. Moreover, by 2026, the anticipated growth of TV households is expected to peak at 202 million, making the existing  panel size even more inadequate, according to the regulator. 

“Therefore, there’s a need to establish a roadmap to incrementally expand the sample size to meet the evolving landscape of television viewership,” TRAI noted.

Given the prevalence of streaming firms, TRAI also added that BARC’s audience measurement needs to incorporate non-linear sources as well. “In the dynamic realm of modern media consumption, integrating data from non-linear sources is essential for a comprehensive television audience measurement system. Viewers are also turning to on-demand content via OTT services and streaming platforms, in addition to traditional linear TV metrics. However, BARC’s present audience measurement mechanism incorporates data from linear television only. Cross-platform content consumption, enabled by seamless transitions between linear TV and OTT, adds complexity, necessitating a system that aptly captures cross-device viewing habits,” TRAI observed. 

TRAI also hinted at the need for more agencies and entities to do audience ratings. BARC’s rating methodology has been noted to be biased and susceptible to tampering on multiple instances. TRAI added that increased competition in the ratings space will encourage competition, which will act as a natural deterrent against competition.

“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,” TRAI said. 

The National Broadcasting Policy is the second regulatory framework, besides the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s new bill, which is set to regulate the broadcasting sector. Similar to MIB’s stance on expanding the definition of broadcasting services to include streaming firms, TRAI also noted that as entertainment expands from traditional linear networks to streaming firms, gaming, AR VR and AI – regulators need to seek a “technology neutral” approach while making policies for the broadcasting industry.