Earlier in August, Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC), the industry’s television audience measurement body, announced Nakul Chopra as its new Chief Executive Officer. Chopra took over from Sunil Lulla last week, as the latter stepped down to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions. The new BARC chief is not new to the body and had joined its India board in 2016, and was subsequently appointed the Chairman in 2018-19. Last year in January, he was named in its Oversight Committee. Chopra is an industry stalwart, having served as the CEO, India and South Asia Publicis Worldwide, for over a decade. The industry is confident that BARC will benefit from his wealth of knowledge and experience from his career of over four decades.
Rebuilding BARC’s image
Since Chopra has been associated with BARC for over four years, the industry is hopeful he will have a fair understanding of the issues facing the company. The industry also feels the appointment of a new CEO will help BARC rebuild its image and resolve the ongoing issues related to the TRP scam and the restoration of the news genre ratings.
However, the exit of Lulla at a time when BARC is embroiled in controversies has also raised concerns among the stakeholders. “Stabilisation has been a problem in BARC. In just two and a half years, there have been multiple changes in the senior leadership, which is alarming and concerning for the industry. We don’t know what is happening at BARC and why so much attrition is happening at the senior leadership level. BARC was among the best in the business when it started. But the TRP scam has damaged its image, and we don’t know how will it restore the faith,” shares an industry observer.
A senior executive at a leading broadcast company, however, also points out that the appointment of a new CEO could also mean that the board is trying to resolve ongoing issues and bring more transparency to the system. “Last year has been very tough for the rating agency mainly due to the TRP scam. Even though Sunil Lulla is a veteran in the industry, his job was not easy because of the scrutiny from the government, broadcasters, and other stakeholders. The good thing is that Chopra has been a part of BARC as a chairman and even a part of the tech committee. Therefore, the transition won’t be a problem for him. We can expect some key developments under his leadership,” notes the executive, adding that BARC data is crucial for the industry as marketers use it to evaluate every rupee that is spent on advertising.
Bringing back the news genre ratings
Even though there might be a lot on Chopra’s agenda now that he has taken over as the CEO of BARC, perhaps the one that tops the list of demands from the news broadcasting fraternity is the release of weekly data from the news genre. Some industry insiders believe that this could also be the start of a new era for BARC, marked by transparency and the resumption of news ratings. “After a year of controversies, we hope the appointment of the CEO at BARC will bring more transparency. This is also a hint that BARC will now soon resume the ratings of news channels. We believe that matters will be resolved with the new leadership at BARC, at least for news broadcasters,” said the business head of a leading regional news channel on the condition of anonymity.
Nakul Chopra will definitely have his hands full, with his biggest challenge being to restore faith in BARC. While there were many controversies BARC faced last year, the biggest one was the TRP scam which tarnished the image of the TV ratings body. Last October, the Mumbai police claimed to have unearthed the scam naming a national news channel and some regional channels for allegedly tampering with BARC data. Later, former CEO of the body, Partho Dasgupta and COO Romil Ramgarhia were arrested for their alleged involvement. A massive controversy followed the busting of the scam, and BARC, under the leadership of Lulla, decided to pause the viewership ratings of Hindi, regional, English news, and business news channels.
Apart from the TRP scam, BARC’s functioning was also questioned when, in April last year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a set of recommendations for the television audience measurement body’s structure, governance, operations, transparency, and accountability.