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Media credibility crisis in a free fall

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Following the sensational press conference by Mumbai police on Thursday evening trumpeting a not-so-shocking expose on TRP fraud, almost the whole of the Indian media appeared to have fallen into a festival of frenzy. Philippics tottered the Twitter. The prime-time shows were punctuated with verbal gore and acerbic arrows of words. What’s the rumpus all about? Is it, at all, a scam or a bomb-shell empty of any entrails?

What’s the lowdown on the matter?

On Thursday this week, Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh held a press conference and said that a TRP racket, involving three media houses, including Republic TV, has been busted by the Crime Branch of the Mumbai police. The other two channels are locally operated ones, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema.

These allegations were broadly premised upon the arrest of, and the admissions made by an ex-employee of Hansa Research Group Private Limited, a Mumbai-based firm responsible for placing the audience measurement meters to keep track of the television channels being watched by households.

Interestingly, the Mumbai police has commenced the probe into this apparent scam acting upon the complaint filed by BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council).

Reactions from the other side of fence

Stung by the accusation and showing no signs of restraint, Arnab Goswami, the Editor-in-chief of Republic TV, came down scathingly on Mumbai police commissioner and blamed him of being vindictive in his motive behind this action. Republic Media said that they would slap a defamation case against Mr. Singh.

Republic TV claimed to have copies of the FIRs filed in the case and that the name of Republic TV was nowhere to be seen in them. They said, instead, that there were categorical mentions of “India Today” in the complaints lodged, and the whole thing reeked of the Mumbai police taking these actions in criminal connivance with a media house called “Tak”—a discreet reference to Hindi news channel “Aaj Tak”.

On the other hand, Hansa private limited filed a police complaint against their ex-employee, the man apprehended by the Mumbai police.

Has the TRP ever been flagged as fraud before?

Yes, this is not the first time the TRP system has come under scanner. NDTV has been at the forefront of raising a red flag round the murky practice of manipulating the TRPs. Mr. Prannoy Roy wrote, showing deep cynicism for this ratings system, that virtually every city in India has a “ratings consultant” who, for a relatively small fee, would ascertain higher ratings for any channel.

Rajat Sharma, owner of the India TV and currently the president of News Broadcasters Association (NBA), once register a complaint against “TV9 Bharatvarsh” of fiddling with the ratings.

These are not the only occasions of media houses being vocal about this modern-day media menace. The list is longer.

How are the TRPs recorded?

The wonder phrase is “Television Ratings Point”, advertisers’ darling and newsmen’s nemesis. This is a measure of the popularity of any program being broadcast on television. The TRP is central to the existing revenue system employed by all television channels.

Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has installed “BAR-O-meters” in more than 45,000 households across India. Combinedly, they are representative of almost all the socio-economic sections of Indian society. They are categorised into 12 categories under the New Consumer Classification System (NCCS). These meters record how many people, belonging to which socio-economic classifications, watched which channels for how long during a specific span of time. From these readings, they get the idea regarding the shows and the channels people are preferring over the others.

Written By-Ved Prakash

Image Source: Google

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