Panellists churn sets back Barb's progress

The new Barb panel may not be up to its full strength until the end of the year, according to industry sources.

The completion of the 5,100-strong panel had already been delayed until the second quarter of the year, but observers suggest December to be a more realistic date.

The current Barb panel is just over 4,000 strong - more than 1,000 short of its target. The problem with churn of panellists has been mooted as one of the main problems and the chief executive of Barb, Caroline McDevitt, conceded that there had been a problem in retaining panellists.

"There will always be a problem with a new panel because people may have signed up to it without realising the implications,

she said.

Agencies are particularly concerned that the London panel is running 30 per cent below its target while Ulster is a third beneath what Barb promised. But McDevitt said they were more robust than under the previous panel.

Agencies are also frustrated by the delays in receiving programme data from Barb -currently only information for February is available. This has led to problems with planning new campaigns. McDevitt acknowledged that there had been "hiccups

with the programme data but that the backlog was being worked on and that agencies had been kept informed.