No News Channel Ratings for 3 Months. Dear Arnab & Navika, Can You’ll Please Give Your Throats Some Rest?

Social Commentary

No News Channel Ratings for 3 Months. Dear Arnab & Navika, Can You’ll Please Give Your Throats Some Rest?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

In a bombshell press conference last week, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh told reporters that the city police is probing a scam involving manipulation of TRPs. Since then, many key accused have been arrested, news channels have taken potshots at each other, and Arnab Goswami has broken decibel records. In a new development to the TRP saga, the television ratings agency BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) has decided to pause weekly ratings for news channels for three months. It is going to review its system amid the row over alleged rigging of viewership ratings by three channels.

The suspension applies to English, Hindi, regional, and business news channels. “Starting with the ‘News Genre’, BARC will cease publishing the weekly individual ratings for news channels during the exercise. This exercise is expected to take around 8-12 weeks, including validation and testing under the supervision of BARCs Tech Comm,” the statement issued by BARC read. While individual data for channels might not be available, BARC stated that it will “provide estimates for the overall news genre every week by state and language”.

The suspension period is likely to be used to review current practices and chart out reforms to improve the ratings process. Explaining the rationale for the move, Punit Goenka, chairman of BARC India Board, told, “Given the most recent developments, the BARC Board was of the opinion that 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.”

Echoing the importance of their role, Sunil Lulla, CEO, BARC India, said, “We at BARC take our role in truthfully and faithfully reporting ‘What India Watches’ with the greatest sense of responsibility and work with integrity to ensure that our audience estimates (ratings) remain true to their purpose”.

The move, many believe, is a much-needed intervention, given the deterioration of TV media today.

Over the past two weeks, many senior journalists and anchors have spoken about manipulation of TRPs and how they have been the “worst kept secret” in the TV industry. Former executive editor of NDTV, Nidhi Razdan, had posted a thread explaining how the system is rigged.

In view of the murky past of TRP ratings being manipulated and the current revelations by the Mumbai Police, this is a much needed and welcome move by the BARC. A robust, clean, and transparent way to compute ratings doesn’t only reflect a fair picture, it also helps advertisers make informed decisions and not send their ads to news channels peddling toxicity.

The apt time to carry out reforms in the media was yesterday, but as they say, it is never too late to start a good thing.