New Delhi: Two organisations representing news broadcasters in India — one led by journalist Rajat Sharma of India TV and the other by Arnab Goswami of Republic TV — have issued divergent reactions on the decision of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to temporarily suspend publishing of weekly ratings for individual news channels.
While the Rajat Sharma-led News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has welcomed the decision, the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF), headed by Goswami, has objected to the decision.
BARC, which keeps a watch on television viewership trends in India across different genres, took the decision after Mumbai Police accused three news channels — Republic TV and two Marathi channels — for allegedly manipulating viewership ratings in their favour. BARC will now review and augment the current standards of measuring and reporting the data of “niche genres” in an exercise likely to take 8-12 weeks.
The NBA and the NBF represent different blocs of news channels. While the NBA’s members include India Today and India TV, the NBF largely comprises regional channels like First India Rajasthan and Gulistan News, besides Republic TV.
In a statement Thursday, the NBA said it believes the suspension is an important step in the right direction.
“BARC should use these 12 weeks to completely overhaul its systems and restore the credibility of the information it collects about What India Watches,” it added.
The statement quoted Sharma as saying that recent revelations have brought disrepute to the measurement agency and, by extension, the broadcast news media.
“The corrupted, compromised, irrationally fluctuating data is creating a false narrative on What India Watches and has been putting pressure on our members to take editorial calls that run counter to the journalistic values and ideals of journalism,” it said.
Sharma said that human intervention should be completely eliminated in collection and processing of viewership data to safeguard its integrity.
The NBF, meanwhile, said in a statement that it “strongly objects” to BARC’s decision.
“The decision is unilateral, one-sided and undemocratic, impacting and targeting one single genre within the broadcasting ecosystem,” NBF general secretary R. Jai Krishna was quoted as saying in the statement.
“The decision will severely impact news broadcasters, who have seen a surge in ratings despite the challenges of a lower-than-expected economic growth that has impacted their revenues already, in addition to the financial impact created by the lockdown to prevent spread of Covid-19,” he added.
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