Agencies question validity of Barb data for 16 to 34 viewers

Media agencies have accused Barb of manipulating audience data in

order to reassure the media industry and prop up TV audience

figures.



Impacts for 16- to 34-year-old adults - an audience that has given

buyers particular cause for concern - have now increased

dramatically.



Across all television they were up 20 per cent year on year for the week

ending 10 February, compared with a decline of 33 per cent for the first

week that the new audience panel came into effect.



Channel 4 and ITV were the worst hit when the new panel was installed -

both experiencing year-on-year declines of more than 45 per cent for

young audiences.



But the most recent weekly consolidated data shows that Channel 4 has

increased its year-on-year impacts by 8 per cent, while ITV is now down

by only 2 per cent. Satellite viewing and Channel 5 are up 60 per cent

year on year.



MediaCom's director, Steve McDonnell, remained sceptical about the new

data. He said: "The results smack of coaching. And the Pop Idol final

cannot be responsible for ITV's performance as it would only have made a

5 per cent difference."



Barb's chief executive, Caroline McDevitt, denied the panel is being

coached. However, she did admit that there had been a problem with the

16 to 34 data and said they were being "re-educated" to register guest

viewing, and that the data and the new panel was beginning to settle

down.



Walker Media's managing partner in charge of broadcast, Jon Horrocks,

said: "The biggest outrage is that there has been no penalty clause for

Barb failing to recruit the panel to the correct size by the beginning

of the new contract."



The new 16- to 34-year-old universe has been decreased by 5 per cent to

represent the population.