Govt forms panel to look into TRP system

Updated 05th November 2020 | 09:47 IST

On each day the Centre announced a four-member committee, to be headed by Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati, to seem into the tv Rating Points (TRP) system and recommend any changes required to form it more robust and transparent, the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) wrote to the Prime Minister, seeking a “national-level independent body” to “deal with misconduct by professional journalists”.

The NBF is an industry body founded last year by Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami.

Incidentally, Republic TV is among media organisations being probed during a case of alleged ‘TRP scam’. Mumbai Police’s case is that some TV channels were allegedly paying to urge their TRPs boosted.

The letter, written by NBF secretary-general R Jai Krishna and titled “Request for urgent intervention to uphold the liberty of the press”, is additionally marked to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar, Law Minister Shankar Prasad, Principal Secretary to PM Pramod Kumar Mishra, and therefore the Home and I&B secretaries.

It sought the government’s “immediate intervention regarding undue pressure and unreasonable interference by state governments and police departments against news TV channels, journalists and media owners for performing their duty”, and cited several cases from the “past few weeks”. In these cases, the NBF wrote, “journalists and force of stories broadcasters (were) called by local police and held captive for unnecessary long hours at an unreasonable time for routine questioning, which is hampering the responsible duty of public service performed by journalists…”

Among others, it cited cases of Republic TV and its Hindi channel R Bharat being “hounded relentlessly” by Maharashtra government, OTV facing “serious vindictive harassing actions” by Odisha government, “police action” against TV5 in Andhra Pradesh, and cases against Newslaundry and a journalist from ABP Majha in Maharashtra.

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Seeking PM Narendra Modi’s “urgent intervention”, the NBF urged the govt to “put in situ a national level neutral agency with a structured and reasonable standard operating plan, to affect serious complaints against journalists and media organisations”. The letter stated that a “national-level independent body, on the lines of Bar Council of India, Medical Council of India, Institute of Chartered Accountants, to affect misconduct by professional journalists, will act as a deterrent against abuse of power by any agency to stifle freedom of the press, for the cover of journalists and executives of stories media organisations…”

Meanwhile, on the difficulty of TRPs, an I&B Ministry order issued on Wednesday stated that there’s a “need to possess a fresh look on the (existing) guidelines…” To strengthen procedures for a “credible and transparent scoring system, a Committee is hereby constituted to review different aspects of the tv scoring system in India”, the order stated.

It said the committee will appraise the prevailing system, examine TRAI recommendations notified from time to time, check out the “overall industry scenario” and address needs of stakeholders and “make recommendations for the robust, transparent and accountable scoring system through changes, if any, within the existing guidelines”.

Besides Vempati, other members of the committee are Shalabh, professor of statistics, IIT Kanpur; Rajkumar Upadhyay, executive of the Centre for Development of Telematics -DOT; and Prof Pulak Ghosh of IIM Bangalore.

The new committee has also been tasked with studying past recommendations made by various forums on the topic, recent TRAI recommendations, suggest steps for enhancing competition within the sector, review of the present guidelines and see if they work, and address any lacunae.

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Earlier, with questions being raised about the robustness of measurement of TRP, the printed Audience Research Council (BARC), which measures viewing audience viewership behaviour, suspended publication of TRPs for news for eight weeks after the allegations of manipulations had surfaced.

Currently, BARC is the primary agency that publishes TRPs. it’s jointly owned by industry bodies representing broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies. The mention of “suggest steps for enhancing competition within the sector” together of the points of the terms of reference for the committee hints that it could recommend the creation of another body to live the TV viewership within the country.

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