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Modi govt sets up panel to review guidelines on TV rating agencies amid ‘fake TRP’ row

The four-member committee will be headed by Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati, and will have to submit its recommendations within two months.

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New Delhi: The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry Wednesday constituted a four-member committee that will review the existing guidelines on television rating agencies. 

The decision comes around two weeks after the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) decided to suspend publishing its weekly individual ratings for channels in the news genre in the wake of the Mumbai Police’s allegation that Republic TV and two other channels have been manipulating television rating points (TRP).

In its order, the I&B Ministry said the committee will be headed by Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati, while Dr Shalabh, professor of statistics at IIT Kanpur, Dr Rajkumar Upadhyay, executive director, Centre for Development of Telematics, and Pulak Ghosh, professor at IIM Bangalore, will be its members.

It will have to submit its recommendations to I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar within two months. 

The existing guidelines issued by the ministry on television rating agencies were notified in January 2014 after detailed deliberations with various stakeholders and committees such as the Committee on Television Rating Points constituted by the ministry and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), among others. 

BARC was subsequently constituted in July 2015 under these guidelines and provides TRPs on a commercial basis.

Also read: Supreme Court asks Republic TV to approach Bombay High Court in TRP scam case

What the order says

The I&B Ministry order stated the new committee should study different aspects of the television rating system as they have evolved over a period of time.  

It said there is a need to have a fresh look on the guidelines, particularly keeping in view the recent recommendations of TRAI, and technological advancements/interventions to address the TRP system and further strengthen the procedures for a credible and transparent rating system.

In a paper on television audience measurement and ratings early this year, TRAI had acknowledged the issue, saying incentives are provided to people in panel homes for watching a particular channel, thereby affecting the ratings.

“Panel infiltration has a significant impact when the panel size is smaller. Increase in panel size reduces the impact of infiltration of panel homes on ratings,” TRAI had said and recommended raising the sample size from the existing 44,000 to 60,000 households by the end of this year, and to 1,00,000 by the end of 2022 using existing technology.

The ministry stated: “The committee shall carry out an appraisal of the existing system, examine TRAI recommendations notified from time to time, overall industry scenario and addressing the needs of the stakeholders and make recommendations for a robust, transparent and accountable rating system through changes, if any, in the existing guidelines.” 

The existing guidelines stated that ratings should be technology-neutral and will capture data from across multiple viewing platforms like cable TV, Direct-to-Home, terrestrial TV and also online platforms, wherever feasible.

It said panel homes for audience measurement shall be drawn from the pool of households selected through an establishment survey.

The panel size, it said, shall be increased by 10,000 every year until it reaches the figure of 50,000 and that 25 per cent of the panel homes would be rotated every year, and procedure adopted for selection of panel homes and the rotation of the panel homes would be made transparent.

What the committee will do

According to the order, the new committee will study past recommendations made by various forums on the subject of television rating systems in India and related matters as well as recent recommendations of TRAI on the subject.

The committee will also suggest steps for enhancing competition in the sector and review the current guidelines to see if the intended purpose of issuing the guidelines “have stood the test of time” and has met the needs of various stakeholders involved.  

“The lacunae, if any, shall be specially addressed by the committee,” the order stated, adding that it will also look at other issues related or incidental to the subject.

The panel will also be making recommendations on the way forward for “robust, transparent and accountable rating system in India” and other related issues assigned by the I&B Ministry from time to time.

Also read: How media has hit the self-destruct button in Arnab’s Republic-vs-other TV channels war


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