Benita Chacko

Rolled versus unrolled: Why news broadcasters are divided over viewership measurement

The MIB has put on hold its approval to allow the unrolling of the viewership data for the news and niche genres. 

A week after giving its approval to allow the unrolling of the viewership data for the news and niche genres, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has put it on hold. 

The four-week rolling average was initially implemented when the ratings for the news genre were resumed on March 17, 2022, after a 17-month hiatus prompted by the alleged TRP scam. However, a group of broadcasters reportedly sought unrolled data from BARC. The ratings agency then approached MIB for its permission. 

Last week, the Ministry gave Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) its approval to share weekly Raw Level Data (RLD) with news and niche genre broadcasters. However, on Monday MIB put it on hold and the broadcasters will now continue to have access to only four-week rolling average data. 

Industry experts say that the four-week rolling average or the moving average data does not serve a purpose for the broadcasters and it is unfair that weekly data is not made available to them. 

An industry expert explains that there are two lobbies fighting for and against the rolled data. “Both are adequately powerful. The rolled viewership data (combined data of 4 weeks) doesn’t give a clear picture of the viewership. But the lack of transparency helps the mediocre players in the category,” he says. 

The rolled data is for a four-week period and it does not offer clarity on the viewership regarding big events like the Cricket World Cup. Another expert, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says that the data reflected that news related to war was getting the maximum viewership, as a result, all news channels focussed their attention only on the Israel-Palestine crisis.

“With state elections going on and the upcoming General Elections, the news channels wanted more transparency in the data. They urged BARC to reveal weekly data and the agency approached MIB for permission,” he says.

However, the ratings in the news genre are volatile. Based on the interest in a particular news event, the viewership can spike or decline. Another industry expert says that the rolled data helps temper this volatility. 

“Because of the volatility, the weekly data does not show the true picture. The rolled data is a sound and sensible system,” he says.

He says the weekly (or unrolled) data is not sustainable. “During the elections, counting days will bring in a spike. If it is rolled data, the broadcasters won’t be able to take the mileage of these spikes. But if they want to take advantage of the spikes, they’ll also have to bear the pain of the lows,” he says. 

When the ratings for the news genre were resumed in March 2022, the ministry asked the agency to release data for the genre to be carried out on a four-week rolling average concept.

“This was a result of an MIB committee’s recommendations. But so far all their recommendations have been proven to be pointless. The MIB should not interfere in this issue and it should be left to BARC to decide what is in the best interest of transparency,” the expert suggests. 

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