New Delhi: Next 84 days will provide an opportunity to all news channels to rethink and plan afresh as the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) on Thursday made an announcement to suspend weekly ratings in the wake of the fake Television Rating Points (TRP) scam.

The temporary suspension of weekly ratings for up to 12 weeks is a blessing in disguise as the cut-throat competition among the news channels has brought a new low in journalism. The fourth Pillar of democracy must make an effort to launch a cleanliness drive to get rid of this peril as they need not bother about TRP data in this period. 

According to the BARC, their technical committee will review the existing parameters for measuring TRP and will also try to prevent any tampering in the houses where TRP measuring meters are installed. The alleged TRP scam committed by some news channels has been paused for the next two to three months. 

The BARC has stated that it intends to review and augment the current standards of measurement to improve on “statistical robustness”. The exercise, which would cover all Hindi, Regional, English News, and Business News channels, will result in a “pause” in the weekly ratings for up to 12 weeks with immediate effect, it said.

The News Broadcaster Association (NBA), an organization representing news channels in India, has welcomed the BARC’s decision and said that it believes that the suspension is an “important step in the right direction”.

The BARC decision is likely to have the biggest impact on those news channels whose names allegedly came in the TRP scam.  Advertisers will also avoid giving ads to these channels in the next two to three weeks. The question arises if the temporary suspension of TRP ratings will set the things right? Or the News Channels will once again start following the earlier trend once this period is over. 

The next 84 days will also provide an opportunity for viewers to retrospect as to what kind of journalism they are interested in and accordingly evaluate the news channels that they wish to watch. The purpose of news channels is not entertainment but to inform you, and if you think that Zee News also needs to change, you should write to our email address. You can also give your feedback on our Twitter and Facebook pages. 

The BARC decision to suspend the TRP of news channels has been taken in view of the last week’s development, wherein two big news media organisations of the country were accused of tampering with the TRP. The Mumbai Police is currently probing the case. 

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The DNA report will, however, inform you how the fake TRP can be gained through tampering with meters installed at some houses. Those who still refuse to accept the TRP scam claim that it is not possible on such a large scale, but we will reveal some startling facts that will make you understand how easily this can be done. 

On average, 200 million viewers above 15 years of age watch Hindi news channels every week in India. During this period, they watch the news for an average of 47 minutes. Under this, an average of 10 minutes is spared on a particular channel, 15 minutes for another, one and a half hour for another, but the average time is only 47 minutes. 

The viewership of English news Channels, however, is 1.90 crore, and these people spare just 9 and a half minutes to watch the news. But compared to this, General Entertainment Channels (GEC) of Hindi viewership is 34 crores. These people watch channels for an average of 2 hours. The viewership of GEC is not only one and a half times more than the news, but the time spent by the audience is also almost two times.

Advertising companies sell their products from watches to cars on the basis of TRP. The more TRP the channel gets, the more expensive advertisements it receives. Since the TRO data for news channels will not come up to 12 weeks, this will damage those channels whose names have come up in the TRP scam.

Looking at the available data, you would have understood that the news channel’s share in the world of television is not very high. TRP measuring meters are installed in 44,000 households across the country, but experts say that Hindi news is recorded on as many as 4000 meters. That is, only 10 percent of people watch Hindi news channels. 

Out of these 4000 houses, if 50 houses are asked to watch a special news channel for 4 to 5 hours, the TRP of that channel would increase by 6 percent. The TRP measuring meters are currently installed in 44,000 households across the country, totaling 1.80 lakh people. This number is just 0.1 percent of the country’s population. Now, you can understand how these few people decide what should be shown to you, and what not?

The annual market for television advertisements is of Rs 32,000 crores, and if we divide it equally among those 1.80 lakh people, the share of each person will be Rs 17,77,777. The share of news channels in this market is Rs 3600 crores. If this amount is distributed equally among these 1.80 lakh people, then each will get Rs 2 lakhs. The fact, however, is that those who are happy to take Rs 400 or Rs 500 in the name of influencing TRP should know how some people have taken advantage of their innocence. 

The TRP race has caused enough damage to journalism as this became the measure of success for a news channel, while the system was developed not to measure the popularity of a channel among viewers, but for advertisers. The question is being raised as to what should be the solution to put an end to this menace. 

In India, there are around 25 crore households that currently possess a television. Of these, 5 crore households have private DTH (Direct To Home) facility while 4 crore households watch Television through DD Free Dish. Thus, 9 crore families in India have DTH in total. 

If a chip is installed in the Set-Top Box of all these DTH houses to record which channel is being watched in a house and for how long, the sample size for TRP would be massive. To make this change, the technology cost will be enormous, and this cost will have to be borne either by broadcasters or by advertisers who will not agree to bear this cost. Therefore, it may not be possible to completely change this system even after 12 weeks.

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