For a period of twelve weeks, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has paused the measurement of television viewership ratings of news channels.
This would cover all Hindi, Regional, English News, and Business News channels with immediate effect.
BARC will not publish the weekly individual ratings for all news channels during this period.
BARC will, however, release weekly audience estimates for the news genre by state and language.
In a statement, BARC said, “In the light of the recent developments, BARC Board has proposed that it’s Technical Committee (Tech Comm) review and augment the current standards of measuring and reporting the data of niche genres, to improve their statistical robustness and to significantly hamper the potential attempts of infiltrating the panel homes.”
This exercise is expected to take around 8-12 weeks including validation and testing under the supervision of BARCs Tech Comm.
The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has welcomed the decision.
NBA, which represents the news broadcasters, believes that the suspension is an important step in the right direction.
NBA President Rajat Sharma has said: “Recent revelations have brought disrepute to the measurement agency and by extension the broadcast news media. The corrupted, compromised, irrationally fluctuating data is creating a false narrative on What India Watches and has been putting pressure on our members to take editorial calls that run counter to the journalistic values and ideals of journalism”.
“The current atmosphere of toxicity, abuse, and fake news is no longer tenable and NBA as the custodian and guardian of Indian broadcast media believes a bold step of putting ratings of news genre on hold will help in improving the content,” he said.
“For many years, NBA has been highlighting its concerns about the veracity of TV viewership data, which have been prone to irrational fluctuations. Recent events have shown that there is much more at stake than just the measurement of news channels’ popularity. Indeed, a healthy and vibrant TV news industry is vital to Indian democracy. We expect that the period of suspension will be utilised to implement important reforms at BARC. To safeguard the integrity of viewership data, human intervention in its collection and processing must be totally eliminated. Data security, including encryption and restricting access to key information, must be ensured. Complaints, if any, should be dealt with in an independent and transparent manner. NBA also expects greater consultation and openness when important decisions are taken by BARC. We look forward to meaningful discussions and swift decisions which are in the interest of viewers, the industry, and the public as a whole,” Sharma added.