Finally there seems to be some sign of life in the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), which was proposed as an alternate challenge thrown to the existing Television Audience Measurement body TAM, India.
After a long hiatus, a company with the same name (i.e. BARC) has been registered with the registrar of companies in which Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) will have 60 per cent stake in the new entity, while ISA and AAAI will equally hold the balance 40 per cent.
Moreover, BARC will now have a 10 member Board, to be announced soon and will have 6, 2 and 2 directors each. Following this announcement today at FICCI-Frames 2012 , was also a formal discussion among panelists which included the I&B Secretary Uday K Varma, Trai chairman Dr JS Sarma, Zee managing director and CEO Punit Goenka, Star India COO Sanjay Gupta, Times Television Network MD and CEO Sunil Lulla, Star CJ CEO Paritosh Joshi, Madison Group chairman Sam Balsara and Landmarc Leisure Corporation MD Paulomi Dhawan.
Joshi, who is one of the directors on the IBF Board and has been instrumental in BARC formation, said that "I have been involved with BARC for exactly as long as the idea of a joint industry initiative for TV audience measurement has been with us - the last 6 years. It is therefore particularly gratifying that after this long and arduous journey, with endless twists and turns, we have finally arrived at the long sought destination. I believe this is a transformational moment not just for ratings and audience measurement but for TV in India in general. All of us at IBF feel confident that we have got the formula right and this time it is irrevocable".
Broadcasters push for an independent audience measurement system to fit into the emerging digital media world in order to capture audiences across all digital platforms as the audiences fragment and ad revenues slow down.
To do this the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) had formed a nationwide audience research joint body, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).
In fact, BARC is an old story that started almost six years ago. Since then there has been considerable debate in various forums, extending even to the Parliament, about the TV audience measurement system, referred to in popular parlance as TRP system. A number of committees were formed, the most recent being the MIB's appointed and Dr. Amit Mitra chaired Committee on TV Audience Measurement. A key recommendation of the Mitra Committee was the establishment of BARC representing the interests of all key stakeholders.
Then the idea was to set it up as a joint venture between the IBF and the ISA on a 60:40 ratio and initial investment of Rs 300 million. However, ISA wanted AAAI also to be a part of the joint body.
BARC has been formulated on the lines of BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board) of UK. Just like BARB, BARC will also not conduct audience measurement directly but commission independent specialist research vendors.
"We are not a research agency, and we are not going to compete with TAM. Instead, BARC is a joint body, which will evaluate all the research needs of the industry and in a commercially sensible manner," Joshi said.
The primary objective of BARC is to conduct and commission market research using appropriate research methodologies, to provide accurate, up to date and relevant findings relating to broadcast audiences, including TV ratings.
According to Goenka and the other broadcasters there is nothing wrong in the data provided by TAM, but it is inadequate.
"Advertisers are always looking for transparent and robust research and in-depth insights in the rapidly changing television viewership landscape", said Bharat V. Patel, Chairman, The Indian Society of Advertisers.
Joshi said that with the formation of BARC, the quality and scope of TV audience research in the country will get upgraded, the findings will be more robust and financials more transparent.
Currently, according to the broadcasters the major challenge will be to cover all the broadcasting modes in the research - terrestrial, cable & satellite, DTH, analogue and digital platforms, developing and new platforms.
BARC will engage in extensive industry consultations with stakeholders, specialist research consultants, existing & potential measurement service providers to identify the key concerns and requirements with regards to audience measurement.