New Delhi: Information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Smriti Irani on Thursday called for strengthening of regional broadcasting services across the country by making the audience measurement system representative of local languages and dialects.
“If we want to strengthen our broadcasting scenario, we need to give equal importance to regional broadcasters. We have to democratize the measurement system for viewership, thereby giving more voice and more power to those who broadcast in regional languages," Irani said, addressing the people at the Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture in the national capital.
Irani highlighted the need for a model structure in broadcasting across the country which should be “based on an accurate measurement system that reflects the strength of regional languages, varied tastes of viewers/consumers and bridges the divide on issues related to agenda setting, creative content and revenue between the mainstream and regional platforms."
At present, television audience is measured by the joint industry body Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India which has a sample size of 30,000 panel homes in the country. The body, founded in 2010, started mapping the urban television data in April 2015. Rural television channels came under the ambit of Barc later that year in October 2015.
Barc recently announced the expansion of sample size to 150,000-200,000 panel homes by partnering with cable TV distributors and direct-to-home platforms to map viewership via digital set-top boxes, which in turn will help Barc in mapping accurate data for smaller markets.
“Accuracy of rural viewership measurement is a big concern for public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, which has been able to give services in areas (rural) where, at times, private broadcasters couldn’t reach," said Irani. “Prasar Bharati placed public interest before business and profit interest unlike private channels. It was incumbent upon Prasar Bharati to speak freely and fairly for the progress of the nation. It services the national interest by staying away from the masala kind of news which probably get more attention from consumers," Irani added.
Union textile minister Irani was given an additional charge of the information and broadcasting ministry earlier in August, after Naidu resigned from the post, following his nomination as the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) vice-presidential candidate.
Irani is the fourth I&B minister appointed in the three years of Narendra Modi-led NDA government. Between 2014 and 2016, Prakash Javadekar held the portfolio, followed by finance minister Arun Jaitley. In a cabinet reshuffle in 2016, Naidu had assumed the charge of I&B ministry.