Guest column: BARC is ‘Measure For Measure’, not ‘As You Like It’ (Sorry, Shakespeare)

MUMBAI: Nashik of the 1970s wasn’t the energetic city which you may have visited in recent years. It was a bucolic backwater to which retirees from Bombay’s (it was Bombay back then) Parsi and Bohri communities would gravitate. The pervasive pastoral stillness would be punctuated, infrequently, by the ponderous report of field guns from the Regiment of Artillery, still headquartered there, or the whiplash crack of the MiG-21s, test flying from the HAL Ozar plant, as they broke the sound barrier.

A schoolboy, this schoolboy, in such a town had little fodder to satiate his keen appetite for the novel and interesting. What you, growing up in Delhi, Bombay or Bangalore, would have shrugged off with a dismissive wave, was a source of wonder and delight for him.

Every once in a while, there would be a clutch of no more than three or four people walking purposefully along one of the main thoroughfares, one of them bearing a sturdy wooden tripod, topped off with rather elaborate apparatus. They would stop; the tripod unfolded and placed carefully, with a bloke checking a spirit level for the horizontal; caps taken off a little telescope which was the business end of the wondrous thing; and even as one of the team members scurried off into the distance with a pennant, the senior chap would begin to peer intently through the eyepiece of the telescope and start recording – I had no idea what – in his little notebook.

If you still haven’t figured out what I allude to, it’s called a theodolite. Used by surveyors for creating detailed maps over large areas. In effect, the theodolite is really an instrument to measure length, which in this special case should correctly be labelled distance.

Even as these wonders unfolded in the wide open spaces, our science teacher was instructing us about the centrality of measurement in the Physics lab. We were introduced to the metric and imperial systems and got a chance to use various instruments which enabled precise measurements, even of really small units. While everyone had a pocket ruler marked off in millimetres, any smaller length or width was beyond its abilities. The micrometre screw gauge was a near miraculous tool for a schoolboy. Who would have thought that one could measure the thickness of a sheet of paper? Or aluminium foil? And there it was, doing exactly that.

I had learned, that quiet morning in a Deolali laboratory, that it was as important to measure the minuscule as it was to measure the colossal. A theodolite could measure the height of Mt Everest but it would be of little use if the task was to measure the diameter of a needle or a shirt length from a bolt of fine cotton. That measurement was not a one-size-fits-all activity.

Sadly, four decades later, we are attempting to use a metre rule to measure a hair’s breadth.

The BARC audience measurement system is designed to measure “What India Watches.” In an accurate analogy, the task involves measuring both the gargantuan (top Hindi entertainment channel with 1.3 billion impressions) and the minuscule (English news channel with 600,000 impressions). If the English news channel was the thickness of a typical sheet of paper, the Hindi entertainment channel would be thicker than four reams of 500 sheets each. Indeed, the entire English news genre with 2.7 million impressions would amount to just over four sheets, against over 2,000 for the single Hindi entertainment channel.

Read more news on BARC

You should be able to see, now, that BARC’s measurement is already able to span the range of measurements from a virtual micrometre gauge to a virtual metre rule. People who complain that BARC is unequal to its assigned task should know that this is quite unlike anything that similar systems in other jurisdictions are designed to do.

Consider a tiny market like Serbia, population seven million, which Nielsen Audience Measurement (Serbia) tracks with 880 metered homes. For comparison, Hyderabad, India’s fourth most populous urban agglomeration, is about seven million too. Serbia has 120 metered homes per million population. At a similar metering density, BARC would have to metre over 56,000 metered homes only for urban India (population 471 million).

Unfortunately, this would not be terribly helpful. Here’s why. Indians currently watch about 250 minutes of TV per day, with a standard deviation of 15 minutes. The standard error of this number, at 160,000 respondents in the panel, is two seconds. If the sample was to double, this would shrink to 1.7 seconds.

The non-intuitive thing about statistical sampling is this. A doubling of the sample, from its current level, would yield a mere 15 per cent improvement in accuracy. On a number which is already incredibly accurate.

Ask yourself. Are you a citizen of 185 Serbias? Or ONE INDIA?

The author is principal at Provocateur Advisory. The opinions expressed here are his own and may not subscribe to them.

Latest Reads
Chrome DM week 47: Religious genre emerges as top gainer

KOLKATA: All the different genres of television channels have seen marginal growth in the week 47, 2020 of Chrome Data Analytics and Media data. Religious genre is the top gainer with a marginal growth of 0.19 per cent. In this genre, Sanskar has gained the highest OTS with 98.2 in the HSM excl...

Television TV Channels Viewership
Sony Pix bids adieu to 2020 with a slew of Hollywood blockbusters

MUMBAI: As India prepares to bid adieu to 2020, Sony Pix too has plans to end the year on a high with a special programming line-up through the month of December. In addition to the Indian television premiere of Yesterday and Last Christmas, there’s ‘Premieres 2020’; ‘Thank God it’s 2021’; ‘...

Television TV Channels English Entertainment
Sony Sab's ‘Hero - Gayab Mode On’ to launch on 7 December

MUMBAI: Sony Sab is all set to launch its flagship show of the year, Hero - Gayab Mode On. With the power of invisibility as a distinctive element in the story, blended with a gripping storyline, Hero - Gayab Mode On will premiere on 7 December, and air every Monday-Friday at 8 pm.

Television TV Channels GECs
Film shoots resume in Madhya Pradesh under Covid2019 norms

MUMBAI: Madhya Pradesh has become the first state to permit film production post the unlock. The state is taking all necessary measures to ensure shooting takes place safely. The government has come out with a set of standard operating guiding principles that need to be followed at film sets and by...

Television Production House Post Production
Bigg Boss 14 finale to happen next week?

MUMBAI: Twists and turns abound in Bigg Boss and the show is set to introduce yet another shocker in the upcoming episode. According to a promo released by the makers of the show, host Salman Khan will be seen informing the housemates that the finale of Bigg Boss 14 will be held in the coming week...

Television TV Channels GECs
NBF hails Supreme Court of India upholding human liberty

The News Broadcasters Federation hails supreme court of India, upholding sacrosanct principle of human liberty in its judgement providing interim relief to Arnab Goswami, MD and editor in chief of Republic Media Network.

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
ITW Playworx wins sponsorship rights of ADT10 season 4

NEW DELHI: Ten Sports has awarded ITW Playworx the sponsorship rights of the Abu Dhabi T10 (ADT10) season 4. The fast-paced and pulsating ADT10 tournament is back with its fourth edition for all cricket enthusiasts around the world, and will commence from 28 January – 6 February 2021 at Zayed...

Television TV Channels Sports
Banijay confirms internal data theft in cyber attack

MUMBAI: Independent production company Banijay has admitted that internal data was stolen in a cyber attack last week, potential impacting hundreds of current and former employees. The company said that certain personnel data as well as commercially sensitive information may have been compromised....

Television Production House Post Production
Madras HC issues interim injunction against sexually explicit ads

KOLKATA: The Madurai bench of the Madras high court has issued an interim injunction against programmes or advertisements on TV channels displaying obscenity. In addition to that, the judges sought response from MIB on censorship of programmes telecast on channels. “Some advertisements though look...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required