Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, the joint industry body that monitors the TV viewership in the country, has decided to set up an independent disciplinary committee that will hear all issues related to ratings disputes and unfair practices. It will be headed by a retired judge, and the committee will be authorized to take action against channels which try to tamper with BARC’s panel homes — houses where BARC has installed its meters — in order to manipulate ratings.

“We are setting up an independent body, which will be headed by a retired high court or Supreme Court judge,” Sudhanshu Vats, chairman BARC India and group CEO at Viacom18, said.

The committee will have representations from all three industry bodies — the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA), and the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI). It will also have two or three independent experts on the board from the measurement science field and from the media industry.

According to Vats, setting up of this committee is his top priority and once in place, it will hear all the complaints related to measurement issues. He argued that as this board will be led by a retired judge, it will be able to tackle most of the cases.

The disciplinary committee will follow a due process, which will see an oral or written reprimand for parties it found guilty of mala fide practices, followed by a penalty. Failure to comply may attract harsh action in terms of suspension or termination of the ratings.

BARC ratings are the currency for transaction in media and advertisers and agencies spend over Rs 25,000 crore on TV advertising on the basis of these ratings, which makes it very important to have a credible, holistic and objective measurement body and system.

The first time a case of unfair practice had come into light in March last year, when BARC had to issue a show cause notice to Raj TV, alleging that some of the panel homes with BARC meters were approached to watch the channel in exchange of financial consideration. – Adage India