Anirban Roy ChoudhuryPublished: 4 Apr 2019, 5:49 PM

BARC responds to TRAI's notice: "Misleading data on the website would be against public interest"

A quick look at BARC's statement responding to a PTI story stating TRAI issued a "show cause" notice for not complying with its direction on the release of TV viewership data.

A PTI story published on April 1, 2019 stated that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a "show cause" notice to the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) of India for not complying with its direction on the release of TV viewership data on the website during the sector's migration to the new tariff order (NTO).

The PTI story quoted a source privy to the development saying, "The regulator has asked BARC India to explain, by April 5, why action should not be taken against it for contravention of sections of the TRAI Act."

BARC responds to TRAI's notice: "Misleading data on the website would be against public interest"

When afaqs! reached out to BARC India for a statement in response to the PTI story, the spokesperson said, "BARC India is a joint industry body and operates under a self-regulation model in compliance with the Ministry of I&B (Information and Broadcasting) Guidelines. In the NTO transition period, due to distribution disruptions (which have been well documented in media reports), there is significant volatility in data."

The statement also said, "Due to this and the fact that data in this period does not truly reflect viewers' choice, BARC India's Technical Committee and Board took a decision to temporarily suspend placing the limited set of data on our website."

It is worth noting that on February 24, 2019, PTI flashed a story stating that the regulator has issued a strongly worded directive to BARC India which stated, "BARC India has modified its Fair and Permissible Usage Policy on February 14, 2019, even after being repeatedly asked by the authority not to stop the publishing of rating data and viewership data on its website during the migration to the new regulatory framework until and unless explicitly permitted by the authority and are thus, in contravention of the direction of the authority dated December 21, 2018 and January 14, 2019."

The directive, as seen by PTI, added, "Now, the authority hereby directs the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to immediately release and publish viewership data for the week ending February 8, 2019 and weeks subsequent to it, on its website without any further delay and not to stop it in future also without explicit instruction/direction from the authority or Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. BARC India has been asked to furnish compliance to the authority by February 25, 2019 failing which appropriate action would be initiated against them under the TRAI Act, 1997."

BARC India, however, backed its stance and continued to keep the weekly data off the website. The page where weekly data like top channels and top programmes across various genres like Hindi GEC, English News etc. were available for the public to access said, "In light of the implementation of TRAI's New Tariff Order and on-ground changes, BARC India's viewership data will be released only to its subscribers until further notice."

In its statement today, BARC explained why it kept the data away from the website despite TRAI's directive, "Putting such misleading data on our website would be against public interest and could be misused by vested interests. BARC is constantly monitoring the ground situation on this. We have made detailed submissions to TRAI and MIB, backed by data, on several occasions."

The statement concludes with, "Also, we would like to reiterate that there has been no stoppage of data to our subscribers. Every week, our clients have been receiving weekly data without any disruption."