There is never a dull moment in India’s burgeoning television news industry, both on and off the air. For the past couple of years, the TV news genre has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The genre rating has been suspended since the TRP scandal was exposed by the Mumbai police, forcing news channels to operate without ratings data.
Following a diktat from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India finally resumed publication of news rankings on March 17. other. Winners and losers aside, most players in the news industry are skeptical of BARC rankings, with the widespread perception that the system is still not foolproof.
Adding to the woes, industry executives e4m spoke to said the audience measurement body had failed to address concerns raised by stakeholders. BARC also did not respond to an official letter sent by e4m seeking its defense against these allegations.
According to industry sources, some of the top concerns raised by stakeholders include the use of various distribution tactics, including landing pages, to boost ratings. One stakeholder pointed out that the agency doing the panel work for BARC has hired many former Hansa employees. Hansa, who managed panel houses for BARC, quit following the TRP scam.
The fact that BARC has still not conducted a study on Broadcast India (BI) has infuriated many news channels. The study plays an important role in the recruitment process of the BARC panel. Stakeholders are also worried as viewership across the TV industry is declining despite the growing TV penetration in the country.
One of the main issues reported by a senior official at a leading news network is the appointment of Hyderabad-based GDA Security to carry out panel work. “After Hansa resigned, BARC appointed GDA Security to do the back-end work. Employees accused of wrongdoing at Hansa joined this new company and the same group of people continue to do the work. a serious issue and should be investigated immediately,” the official said.
Sources say a major Hindi news channel sent a letter to BARC complaining about the landing page data. The Hindi news channel in question has seen its market share drop drastically.
While some channels are crying foul, there is one Hindi news channel that has seen a sudden change in its fortunes. According to a source, the tide started to turn in favor of this channel after it brought in a seasoned distribution executive to improve its channel’s placement and reach.
That’s not all. A senior source told e4m that BARC has informally admitted to some news channels that it has found evidence of malpractice in certain markets. In fact, a specific malpractice case was also discussed at a meeting of the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) recently.
Sources say these cases have left a bad taste in the mouths of the news industry. A detailed questionnaire sent to the BARC about the allegations remained unanswered until the filing of this report. The article will be updated once BARC India sends in their responses.
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