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“BARC should do annual audit, corporate governance to maintain transparency”

The committee appointed by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), which was tasked with reviewing guidelines on TV rating agencies in India, has recommended a slew of measures to refurbish BARC. Annual audit for transparency and corporate governance are some of the key recommendations in the committee’s report.

As per the committee’s report, the Chairperson of BARC, members of the BARC Board as well as nominees of the stakeholder bodies should not only be persons of eminence with impeccable credentials in corporate governance, but should also be someone without conflicts of interest. Further, the nominee for BARC Chairperson should have no other full-time responsibilities. Articles of Association have to be amended to ensure the same, the committee said.

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The chairperson also needs to be able to devote adequate time necessary for effective oversight and supervision of BARC. Thus, to ensure this, the person must not have other full-time responsibilities.

Another important recommendation pertains to audit. BARC India should continue to get an annual audit conducted by an independent agency to ensure conformance with TRP rating methodology, sample size, and grievance redressal methodology and publish the audit report on its website after the Board’s approval within three months, after the end of the financial year. It should also prepare an audit manual to ensure accuracy of the process adopted for ratings, household-panel selection, functioning, and data collection for overall rating systems, says the committee report.

The committee report recommends that the stakeholders must make efforts to broaden their membership so that even smaller broadcasters, agencies, and advertisers get a chance to ensure “plurality and diversity of stakeholders”. The report cites the example of MRC in the US as a best practice to take inspiration from.

Stakeholder bodies managing BARC India should abide by norms on term limits for individual members representing them on the BARC Board and on various BARC committees. Articles of Association may be suitably amended to ensure the same.

The stakeholder bodies must ensure the widest opportunity to member representatives to participate by rotation through the mechanism of term limits. Further, the number of seats held by any one stakeholder corporation must be capped.

The report also recommends a separate one-time audit to be conducted by an independent third party focused on the structure, operating model, risks and dependence on entities other than stakeholder bodies, financials, checks and balances from a corporate governance standpoint of MDPL.

To improve transparency, the committee wants an independent review and oversight of technical matters with no conflicts of interest. The report further stated that the oversight committee must be truly independent in every sense and its members must have no other relationship or interest in BARC India or its stakeholders.

The committee must comprise technical experts drawn from stakeholder representatives rather than executives with sales/ business development/ marketing and other business responsibilities.

The committee has strongly recommended combining traditional sample-based statistical approaches with big data approaches to overcome limitations of sample-based panels and to allay concerns over how representative such samples are.

The committee recommended that provision for Return Path Data (RPD) be made a mandatory capability in all future STBs deployed by DPOs, so that RPD becomes a ubiquitous capability on par with encryption, conditional access and other such mandatory STB level capabilities.

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