Is big brother watching you?
A guest post from education provider EduCare.
No, basically what happens is that there is a nationwide panel of television-owning private homes that together represent the viewing habits of the 26 million TV households within the UK. Each individual panel home represents about 5,000 of the population.
Households on the panel are carefully selected to ensure they are representative of a certain segment of the population (broadcast area, age, income, lifestyle, social status etc.) When the household agrees to join the panel their home has all their television sets, video and DVD recorders electronically monitored by a meter (a small box placed by the TV and connected to it). The box is also connected to a master monitoring meter controlled by BARB – the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Bureau. It’s their job to provide the official statistics.
When a household member is in a room with a TV set switched on, they register their presence by pressing a button allocated to them on the meter handset. When they leaves the room they have to de-register their presence and the metering system monitors all registrations made by each individual for each TV in the house. Viewing data is collected automatically by the meter second-by-second and the channel that is viewed the longest in a minute is attributed to that channel. Only watching at normal speed is counted, so fast forwarding or rewinding isn’t recorded.
What do these households get paid for doing all this registering and de-registering every time they flick on? Nothing – but they are thanked for taking part with a choice of self-selected gift vouchers. Oh, and they get a quarterly Panel Newsletter containing competitions and the opportunity to enter free prize draws.