The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued show cause notice (SCN) to television viewership measurement agency, Broadcast Audience Research Council BARC India for not releasing its viewership data for past few weeks as directed.
Citing sources, reports said that TRAI has asked BARC India to give reasons and its statement on April 5 to justify why action should not be taken against the organisation for violating TRAI directions and rules. This directive comes in after BARC stopped publishing viewership data on its website after TRAI’s new tariff order for the broadcast sector came into effect in the first week of February.
Following this, the telecom regulator had directed BARC on February 22, 2019, to immediately release the viewership data for the week ending February 8 and the subsequent weeks. However, the data has not been released yet. On March 29, TRAI issued a show cause notice stating the BARC has failed to comply with the directives.
BARC India is a joint industry company which had received permission from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to offer television rating services.
Face Off Between TRAI And BARC
It has been reported that in the past directive, TRAI had clearly mentioned that BARC India modified its Fair and Permissible Usage Policy on February 14, even after being asked by the regulator to not stop the publishing of rating data and viewership data on its website during the migration to the new regulatory framework.
The regulator also pulled up the organisation for not complying with the directive of publishing rating and data of the viewership of different TV channels.
In response to this, BARC has said that the disruption caused by the transition into the new framework may prevent the users from accessing channel of their own choice, Livemint reported. To this, TRAI, however, maintained that it would not be appropriate to stop rating the channels as the numbers were based on public choice and thus reflected the market choice.
The regulator had introduced new tariff and regulatory framework for the broadcasting and cable providers which allowed users to choose the channels they wish to watch and only pay for them instead of paying for even those channels which they do not watch.
TRAI had asked all the direct-to-home (DTH) and multiple system operators (MSO) to shift to the new regulatory framework from February 1, 2019. This move was reportedly aimed at bringing down the subscription charges by 15%.
In an email reply to Inc42, a BARC India Spokesperson said, “BARC India is a joint industry body, and operates under self-regulation model, in compliance with Ministry of I&B Guidelines. In the NTO transition period, due to distribution disruptions (which have been well documented in media reports), there is significant volatility in data. Due to this, and the fact that data in this period does not truly reflect viewers’ choice, BARC India Technical Committee and Board took a decision to temporarily suspend placing the limited set of data our website.”
The spokesperson added, “Putting such misleading data on 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. Also, we would like to re-iterate that there has been no stoppage of data to our subscribers. Every week, our clients have been receiving weekly data without any disruption.”