Broadcast regulator TRAI has issued a showcause notice to Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC India) for not complying with its direction on release of TV viewership data on website during the sector’s migration to the new tariff regime, according to a source.
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, the source privy to the development said.
Reached for comments, a BARC India spokesperson said it had temporarily suspended making public limited set of data given the “significant volatility in data” due to “distribution disruptions” in the NTO (new tariff order) transition period.
It said making public such “misleading” data would be against public interest and could be open to “misuse by vested interests.”
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in its showcause notice dated March 29 noted that BARC India did not comply with its past direction given on February 22, 2019, seeking immediate release of viewership data (for the week ending February 8 and subsequent weeks) on its website.
BARC India has been granted registration by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to carry out TV rating services. The source said that following the directive, BARC India had approached the regulator seeking additional time for response.
The stand-off between TRAI and BARC India over viewership data has been brewing for the last few months now. TRAI’s past directive had said that BARC India modified its Fair and Permissible Usage Policy on February 14, 2019, despite being repeatedly asked by the regulator to not stop publishing of rating data and viewership data on its website during the migration to new regulatory framework unless explicitly permitted by the authority.
TRAI had rued that BARC India did not comply with its past instructions despite being repeatedly asked by the authority to publish rating and data of the viewership of different TV channels. BARC, on the other hand, had argued that disruption caused by transition to the new regime could prevent consumers from accessing the channels of their choice, thus not giving fair and true picture of TV consumption in India.
But TRAI has maintained it would not be appropriate to stop rating of channels as these changes were an outcome of consumer choice and real reflection of market dynamics.
TRAI reminded BARC India that it is governed by the provisions of the TRAI Act and thus required to comply with orders, regulations, and directions issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and regulator from time to time.
TRAI has recently unveiled the new tariff order and regulatory regime for the broadcast and cable sector, which paves the way for consumers to opt for channels they wish to view, and pay only for them. It has said every channel should be offered a la carte, with a transparent display of rates on electronic programme guide.
A BARC India spokesperson, in an emailed comment to PTI, said: “… 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 limited set of data on our website”.
“Putting such misleading data on