TRP scam: BARC suspends weekly ratings of news channels

TRP scam: BARC suspends weekly ratings of news channels
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Mumbai: Following the fake Television Rating Points (TRP) scam, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) on Thursday announced a temporary suspension of weekly ratings of news channels across languages.

The council intends to review and augment the current standards of measurement to improve on "statistical robustness", and the exercise will result in a "pause" in the weekly ratings for up to 12 weeks, an official statement said.

At least five people, including owners of channels Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema, have been arrested by the city police which busted the scam earlier this month.

Those arrested include news channel employees, while the police is also questioning Arnab Goswami-led Republic TV's chief financial officer S Sundaram with regard to the case.

Republic TV has denied any wrongdoing.

"In the light of the recent developments, BARC Board has proposed that it's technical committee review and augment the current standards of measuring and reporting the data of niche genres, to improve their statistical robustness and to significantly hamper the potential attempts of infiltrating the panel homes," an official statement said.

The exercise would cover all Hindi, Regional, English News and Business News channels with immediate effect, it added.

"BARC will cease publishing the weekly individual ratings for all news channels during the exercise," it said, adding that the exercise will last between 8 to 12 weeks and include validation and testing.

"..a pause was necessitated to enable the industry and BARC to work closely to review its already stringent protocols and further augment them to enable the industry to focus on collaborating for growth and well-natured competitiveness," BARC India chairman Punit Goenka said.

The industry body's chief executive Sumil Lulla said besides augmenting current protocols and benchmarking them with global standards, BARC is also exploring several options to discourage unlawful inducement of its panel home viewers and further strengthening its codes.

SC asks Republic Media Group to approach Bombay HC

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Republic Media Group to approach the Bombay High Court in the TRP manipulation case, saying "we must have faith in high courts".

A bench comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee said the high court has been working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the media group should approach it as its office is located at Worli.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the media house, expressed apprehension about the ongoing probe saying "of late, there is a tendency that commissioners are giving interviews".

"Your client has an office at Worli (in Mumbai)? You may go to the Bombay HC... Entertaining the petition like this without HC hearing the matter sends a message also. The HC is working throughout the pandemic," the bench said.

Salve then withdrew the petition with liberty to approach the high court.

The plea in the apex court was filed by Arg Outlier Media Private Limited which owns the Republic Media network.

The audience estimates given by BARC influence ad spends, and the total size of the ad placements was pegged at Rs 32,000 crore annually by the police. The police allege the ratings were being rigged by inducing the homes where the monitors were placed.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh had claimed that three channels including Republic TV manipulated the TRP.

The racket came to light when BARC, an organization which measures TRP, filed a complaint in this regard through Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd, the police had said.

Mumbai Police had earlier filed an affidavit in the top court seeking dismissal of the plea filed by Republic Media group contending that investigation into an alleged crime cannot be urged as a ground for violation of Article 19(1)(a).

"Article 19(1)(a) cannot be invoked by the petitioners to side step, thwart and prevent any investigation by the competent investigating agency into alleged fudging of TRP ratings. The right under Article 19(1)(a) is not a shield which can be used against any a commission of crime under the extant criminal law of the land," it said.

The police submitted that the allegations contained in the impugned FIR registered by it make out any offence cannot be decided at this stage.

"The investigation is still progressing in respect of FIR No. 143 of an a 2020. There is no exceptional circumstance whatsoever warranting any interference by this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution," the police said.

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