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NBF seeks ministry help in BARC’s failure to address landing page issue

The News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) has sought the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to intervene in the matter of landing page conundrum. In a letter to the Minister for lnformation & Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur, the NBF has alleged that the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has failed to address the ongoing problematic matter of landing pages being measured by the viewership rating agency as true viewership, thereby skewing the final data.

Despite multiple letters from multiple national and regional news channels, BARC has yet to initiate any course correction. The non-addressal of the landing page matter has compromised the whole measurement system,” said the letter, signed by Arnab Gowsami.
While stressing that the government has repeatedly shown its commitment to building a merit-based level playing field, the Federation said that allowing landing pages to be a measure of viewership stops and prevents a fair competitive environment.

The federation alleged that the use of landing pages to alter viewership data is predator behaviour.

“It is a purely restrictive trade practice that encourages exclusionary behaviour in the news industry. Landing pages are being accounted for as viewership which means the authorisation of monopolies in the news media. The brazen use of Landing Pages, bought at a price, to artificially amplify viewership data of certain channels gives channels with deep pockets an anti-competitive advantage. It is shocking that some news channels today get 84% of their viewership from just 2 states in lndia, because of landing pages. lt lays the foundation for all those corporates who also run news organisations to redirect their cash flow toward Landing Pages as a means to edge out other honest news players,” said the letter, which was signed by NBF founding- president Arnab Goswami.

“At a time when the government has been working towards ending monopolies and
creating a level-playing field amidst the surging digitisation, this practice by BARC counters all efforts to democratise news media, provide a level playing field to all players - big and small- and ensure transparency in data sharing,” said the NBF.

The letter said that the validation of monopolistic practices has the net effect of blocking and winding up other news channels that do not have the same monetary backing as the monopoly.

In the past, BARC had included unfiltered outliers data from landing page for its ratings data, said the letter, adding that it, however, later decided to exclude it from viewership. “Therefore, it is clear that BARC has both the ability and the precedent of filtering out landing page data while calculating viewership, but is still not doing so. In fact, in the past, BARC had itself termed the use of landing pages as a "false exaggeration" of viewership,” said the letter.

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