British TV audience measurement organization BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board) has supplanted its executive chairman Nick Phillips during his absence on holiday.

Appointed in his place is Nigel Walmsley, the former Post Office marketing wunderkind. More recently, until his resignation at the end of last year, Walmsley was managing director of GMTV and a board director of Carlton Communications – one of BARB’s seven shareholders. He continues to advise Carlton in a non-executive capacity on industry and regulatory matters and (prior to his BARB appointment) appeared to have no fulltime executive role.

Phillips’ in absentia axing came as a shock to many in the industry. His predecessor as BARB chief executive, Bob Hulks, declared himself “absolutely amazed at the news”. He could not, he added, “think of a more suitable person for the job”.

In addition to Carlton the other BARB shareholders are the BBC, Granada Media, Channel 4, Channel 5, BSkyB and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. The ITV duo and the BBC appoint two directors to BARB’s board, giving them four of the eight available votes.

The ousting follows nearly eight months of criticism and internecine warfare over the new BARB reporting panel, launched two weeks behind schedule in mid-January with a substantially under-strength reporting panel. Since when it has been downhill all the way with doubts constantly cast on the accuracy of the data. Even today, the panel remains short of its 5,100-strong complement.

Some industry insiders believe Nick Phillips is a scapegoat, sacrificed to placate the ITV camp which has been hardest hit by uncertainty over the data. Nor is his the first head to roll, being preceded in July by unrelated namesake Adam Phillips, managing director of ATR UK, the contractor responsible for conducting the audience measurement scheme [WAMN: 8-Jul-02].

Nick Phillips is has been associated with BARB for many years, previously in his capacity as director general of the IPA.

[Prior to going to press WAMN tried to contact BARB to verify certain facts but was able to reach only an automated answering service.]

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff