Govt wants to know what you watch on TV, proposes installing chips in set-top boxes
The Union ministry of information and broadcasting wants to know what viewers are watching on TV and has proposed installing a chip in the new set-top boxes used by digital satellite service providers to give them the low-down, an official aware of the developments said on Friday.
The proposal to monitor patterns, sent to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for its comments, has been mooted as the ministry is circumspect about the viewership data collated by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) — a television audience measurement agency. Cable or direct to home service operators do not have information on how subscribers consume content, though BARC, through its BAR-O-meters, collects data directly from channels by watermarking the audio.
According to an official who did not want to be identified, the ministry wants to use set-top boxes with a chip as it feels BARC almost functions like a monopoly. “There are no alternatives [to BARC]. It also doesn’t reveal how it arrives at the figures, the methodology applied, or the area surveyed,” the official said. He added that the ministry discussed the possibility of procuring about 300 people meters and randomly installing them to verify the veracity of BARC data, but found the number too small to meaningfully compare and verify data.
“The I&B ministry feels that viewership figures for every channel will be more authentic through this method [tracking viewership through a chip]. This will help advertisers as well as Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) to spend their advertising expenditure wisely and only those channels which are widely watched will get promoted,” the official said.
BARC, on its part, said in a statement, “We operate within the regulatory framework as mandated by the ministry guidelines. We also meet regularly with officials of the ministry and TRAI to brief them and provide status report on our operations.”
Another reason behind the proposal is that the ministry feels the viewership of Doordarshan is under reported and the new tool will help “DD get a boost”. Referring to the BARC mechanism, the official said the agency measures viewership by installing 30,000 people meters, which are soldered to the TV’s mother board. He said there were concerns about the genuineness of the assessment done through volunteers.
In response, BARC said its data collection and reporting methodology was arrived at post consultations and consensus with I&B ministry and TRAI and the detailed methodology was available on their website. The council added, “We will be happy to again meet and address their queries.”
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