TV ratings chief quits after new system to gauge audiences infuriates executives

THE HEAD of the company behind a new system for measuring television ratings has quit after months of controversy over its accuracy.

THE HEAD of the company behind a new system for measuring television ratings has quit after months of controversy over its accuracy.

Television executives and advertisers, who depend on the figures, are furious the system is still not fully operational six months after the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (Barb) introduced it. The departure of Adam Phillips, the managing director of ATR UK, one of the contractors employed by Barb, is likely to be interpreted as a belated recognition of the problems.

But he insisted his departure was not linked to the difficulties of recent months. "I am leaving ATR because in my opinion I have completed the set-up of the company," he said.

He has been replaced by Peter Wilcox, a former director at AC Nielsen, marketing research specialists, who has the difficult task of placating Barb's shareholders, which include all the main broadcasters. The new panel was introduced earlier this year and was supposed to rectify imbalances in the range of viewers represented, a discrepancy that led to inaccurate figures. But the panel remains about 900 people short of its full complement of 5,100. There are understood to be particular gaps in some areas, especially the north.

Television executives have admitted they have been puzzled by some of the results from the panel, such as low audience figures for ITV's World Cup coverage. Caroline Mc-Devitt, Barb's chief executive, is understood to believe the position is improving as the new recruits become familiar with the equipment and procedures. Tracking devices are installed in their homes and panellists are asked to keep notes of how many household members are watching at a given time.

The system was introduced in January and involved the selection of an entirely new panel of viewers, the first for more than 30 years.

But it was immediately dogged by problems and was forced to suspend the supply of figures for the first few weeks, to the annoyance of broadcasters and advertisers.

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