Exactly a week after Mumbai police announced it had busted a scam to manipulate TRP ratings and boost advertising revenues by Republic TV and two Marathi channels, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) on Thursday paused its weekly rating for all news channels for the next three months.
In a statement, BARC said the period would be used to bring the ratings system to global standards and discourage “unlawful inducement of its panel home viewers”. It said it would “review and augment the current standards of measuring and reporting the data of niche genres to improve statistical robustness and significantly hamper potential attempts to infiltrate panel homes”.
TRP system flawed, needs to be overhauled: Editors Guild secy
The police have already arrested five persons it alleges were involved in a racket to bribe households with bar-o-meters to keep the three channels switched on so as to fraudulently show higher viewership.
The News Broadcasters Association said the suspension period should “be utilised to implement important reforms at BARC”. “The corrupted, compromised, irrationally fluctuating data is creating a false narrative on What India Watches,” Rajat Sharma said.
BARC’s exercise to review and rectify will extend to all English, Hindi, regional and business news channels. It will, however, continue to release weekly audience estimates for news by state and language.
“Starting with the news genre, BARC will stop declaring individual channel ratings for news channels while this reworking of the rule sets is being done. This exercise will take around 8-12 weeks, including validation and testing under the supervision of the Tech Committee,” BARC said.
NBA’s Sharma said in a statement, “Recent revelations have brought disrepute to the measurement agency and by extension the broadcast news media. The corrupted, compromised, irrationally fluctuating data is creating a false narrative on What India Watches and has been putting pressure on our members to take editorial calls that run counter to the journalistic values and ideals of journalism.”
“The earlier (system of calculating TRPs) was imperfect and flawed, and needed to be overhauled a long time ago,” said A K Bhattacharya, secretary, Editors Guild of India.
He said the possibility of manipulation existed in the earlier system, but the bigger problem was that the sample size of judging any viewership trend in the earlier system was too small to arrive at any meaningful inference about viewership habits.
He also suggested that the number of meters in homes that calculate TRPs should be increased from the current 44,000.
“The TRAI targets of 1,00,000 meters are also too modest in a TV home universe of 193 million. While increasing the meters to a substantially higher level, technology too should be harnessed. There is no reason why the viewership days available from 70 million DTH subscribers cannot be used by the new rating system… So, an ideal solution would be to use viewership trends available from DTH subscribers, and a higher number of meters installed in non-DTH homes,” he added.
The TRP scam has sent shockwaves through the media, advertising and corporate sectors. Two major companies, Bajaj and Parle-G, have announced they will not run advertisements on toxic news channels that stoke hatred.