House panel on IT may take up ‘TRP fraud’ issue

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By: Express News Service | New Delhi | October 10, 2020 5:41:35 am

The Shashi Tharoor-headed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology could take up the issue for discussion. (File)

A day after Mumbai Police said it had busted a “racket” of “fraudulent” manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRPs) involving three channels, there were indications that the Shashi Tharoor-headed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology could take up the issue for discussion.

There is “considerable interest” in the committee in taking up the issue, it is learnt. The view is that the matter falls within the purview of the panel.

Making his view known, Karti Chidambaram, one of the members of the committee, has written to Tharoor asking him to take up the issue for discussion.

On Thursday, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh addressed a press conference claiming that the police had busted a racket indulging in fraudulent manipulation of TRPs and named three television channels — Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema – which he said have been found to be indulging in such malpractices.

In his letter to Tharoor on Friday, Chidambaram said that “the recent issues surrounding” TRPs of television channels “have cast doubts on the legitimacy and reliability of the system”. He said that the “TRPs produce essential data on television audiences in India and have become the primary basis for advertising decisions”.

He mentioned that the government’s “advertising expenditure depends on this system, but public spending should not be based on flawed data”.

“There is a need to understand this situation. In light of this, it is important that the Standing Committee on Information Technology take up this issue. Therefore, I request you to call before the Committee concerned officials of the responsible ministry, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, to seek necessary clarification on the current situation and remedial measures,” Chidambaram wrote.

The next meeting of the committee is on October 15. The agenda for the next meeting includes hearing the “representatives of News Broadcasters Association, Press Council of India and Prasar Bharati on the subject ‘Ethical Standards in Media Coverage’”. The News Broadcasters Association is an industry body for television news.

The agenda also includes taking “oral evidence of the representatives” of the I&B Ministry on Ethical Standards in Media Coverage.

Speaking to Times Now on Friday, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the “TRP system is managed by BARC” and is a “creation of the broadcasters themselves”. He urged the broadcasters to “improve the system” if there are any problems. “I say media should not be TRP-driven,” he said.

Reacting to the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s statement, Republic TV had said that it was not named in the FIR. The FIR, it said, had instead named another channel and alleged that Singh had made false allegations.

“We found that some channels were paying former employees of agency Hansa Research Group, which is contracted by BARC to carry out the research, to manipulate TRPs in their favour. This is mainly in the Mumbai region,” the Police Commissioner had said. “They in turn were paying certain households selected for putting up BAR-o-meters.”

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