The Information & Broadcasting Ministry has asked the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC India) to resume release of viewership data of news channels with immediate effect. It has also asked the rating body to release the last three months data of news channels genre in a monthly format. The Ministry said that the reporting of viewership data of news and niche genres will be done on a ‘four week rolling average concept’ as per the revised system.

Rigging allegations

BARC India had paused release of news channel TV ratings data in October 2020 post the Mumbai police investigation on allegations around rigging of viewership data.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry said that it was informed by BARC that it has revised its processes, protocols, oversight mechanisms and has initiated changes in governance structure in-line with TRAI recommendations and TRP committee report. It has also initiated reconstitution of its board and its technical committee to induct independent members. In addition, a permanent oversight committee has been formulated by BARC and it has also revamped access protocols of data.

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“BARC has indicated that in view of the changes undertaken by it, they are reaching out to related constituencies to explain the new proposals and are in readiness to actually commence the release as per the new protocols,” the Ministry’s statement added.

Pending data release

The Ministry said in light of these developments, it has asked BARC to release news ratings data with immediate effect and also release the monthly data of the past three months “for fair and equitable representation of true trends”.

“As per the revised system, the reporting of News and Niche Genres shall be on a ‘four week rolling average concept’,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry has also constituted a ‘Working Group’ under the Chairmanship of Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati to look into leveraging return path data capabilities — audience television viewing data that comes from calibrated set-top boxes installed in households — for TV viewership data services. This has been a recommendation of both TRAI and TRP Committee Report. The committee has been asked submit its report in four months, the Ministry stated.