Thursday, 29 September, 2022
HomeIndiaRajat Sharma-led NBA claims manipulation in TV9 Bharatvarsh ratings, channel cries defamation

Rajat Sharma-led NBA claims manipulation in TV9 Bharatvarsh ratings, channel cries defamation

Rajat Sharma alleged the channel got ‘unprecedented’ ratings’ in ‘connivance’ with BARC. TV9 Network, however, said these are all ‘pernicious allegations’.

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New Delhi: The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has lodged a complaint against Hindi news channel TV9 Bharatvarsh, stating there has been an “unprecedented” growth in its viewership for the past eight weeks, alleging that it is based on manipulated data.

The complaint was lodged last Wednesday by NBA president Rajat Sharma — who is also the chairman and editor-in-chief of Hindi news channel India TV — with the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), which comes out with weekly viewership numbers of all genres of channels.

Sharma alleged that the inflated ratings could well be a result of corruption and connivance between TV9 Bharatvarsh and BARC.

In the complaint letter to BARC, Sharma said several news broadcasters have written to BARC about the ratings, which it is releasing week after week without taking any remedial action. 

“These are corrupt practices, which are being done with complete connivance with BARC and the broadcaster (TV9 Bharatvarsh),” he wrote.  

Sharma also stated that instead of looking into the problems being raised by broadcasters, they are shocked to receive an “unwanted mail” from an official in BARC, “justifying the credibility of TV9 Bharatvarsh weekly data”. 

“It is a well-known fact that several channels of TV9 group have been caught in the past manipulating their viewership data so as to climb up the ratings data, which had resulted in suspension of their channel data by BARC,” Sharma wrote.

TV9 Network, however, said the letter contained “pernicious allegations” about the network, its legacy and its people, and this “defamatory act” will be addressed in an appropriate manner.

TV9 Bharatvarsh was launched last year ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Since then, the channel has undergone multiple changes at its editorial levels. The channel was a part of the NBA before 31 March, after which it didn’t renew its membership.


Also read: TV9 CEO heard ‘vowing to purge newsroom of Modi critics’. Staff says he was misunderstood


‘BARC diligently reports what India watches on TV’

The BARC issued a statement, saying the council is a not-for-profit industry body and whenever concerns are raised, they are duly deliberated upon among its constituents.  

“BARC diligently reports what India watches on television and each week’s data is released only after comprehensive statistical and security data validation,” the spokesperson added.  

Sources in the news media industry told ThePrint that while a sudden spike in viewership for any channel could be a cause of concern, rivalry among channels could also be a factor for such a development.

“The NBA wouldn’t have raised a complaint if the channel would have been its member,” a source told ThePrint.

‘Ratings more than unusual’ 

In the letter, Sharma said that for the last eight weeks or more, the ratings have been “unusable” and, in particular, the “ratings of TV9 Bharatvarsh has been more than unusual”. 

The letter said that not only has there been an unprecedented growth of viewership of TV9 Bharatvarsh, but there has also been a swing in the ratings of English news channels.

It said that news viewership has been declining almost consistently on all parameters after lockdown, and this decline has been consistent for all news channels except TV9 Bharatvarsh, which has increased by as much as 59 per cent.

It said that “oddly”, TV9 Bharatvarsh has got its maximum viewership in “Week 25”, when most people were back to work after the unlock began, and had a higher contribution from the urban markets than rural.


Also read: For this new Hindi channel, 6 Indian armed forces veterans are turning journalists


Demand for independent inquiry

Sharma’s letter said it may be worthwhile to look at the track record of the organisation and assess if any earlier instances of interventions or proven malpractices exist against it.  

He even wrote in his letter that some WhatsApp forwards are doing the rounds in this regard, which raises suspicion. He, however, didn’t clarify what these messages were.

The India TV head said it is demanded that BARC, as an industry body, should conduct an independent third-party inquiry, thoroughly investigate, and also take action against officials involved in corrupt practices.

It said corrupt officials must be removed from BARC, which it said is losing credibility.  

Sharma said there has to be a complete review of the BARC team and its members “to restore the credibility of BARC” as in absence of that, there is probable scope of manipulation and corruption of data. 

“I must convey that the members of the NBA Board feel extremely let down. The members have been very patient but it has been too long since it was broken,” Sharma wrote. 

Letter shows ‘lack of understanding’ of TV news business

Barun Das, CEO, TV9 Network, issued a statement Tuesday, dismissing all the allegations.

According to Das: “Incidentally, it is pertinent to point out here that TV9 Network, home to four leading regional news channels apart from TV9 Bharatvarsh — the No 2 Hindi News Channel — was more concerned about the lives of journalists than ratings during the pandemic.

“That is why on 22 March, two days before the lockdown, we proposed to the NBA that the ratings regime should be suspended for a few weeks so that the industry did not compromise the lives of reporters and camera persons in the quest for ratings,” the statement said, adding that the NBA rejected the proposal the very next day.

“Now that TV9 Bharatvarsh has garnered the biggest share of the market during the pandemic, obviously the shoe is on the other foot,” it added.

The network added that until very recently, the NBA was relentlessly convincing TV9 Network to retain its NBA membership after it decided not to renew it after 31 March. 

“On June 16, after due consideration, we politely refused. One month later, we are in the NBA’s bad books. Is this coincidence or coercion?” 

Das also mentioned that the NBA’s letter revealed its “lack of basic understanding” of the television news business. “The fundamental reason behind our success is a concerted strategy of content, distribution and promotion aided by the astronomical rise in viewership during the early weeks of the lockdown. This has been discussed in relevant media forums openly, repeatedly and live.” 

“Last but not the least, the NBA also seems to give credence to some anonymous WhatsApp messages and videos doing the rounds to defame TV9 Network. These videos have already been dismissed as fake by BARC as per media reports. The Network has lodged a formal complaint with the Telangana Police,” Das said in the statement.


Also read: NBF with Arnab vs Rajat Sharma’s NBA — fight is on to regulate India’s news TV channels


 

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1 COMMENT

  1. आदरणीय जी

    विषय :- आदर्श क्रेडिट को-ऑपरेटिव सोसाइटी लिमिटेड,

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    आप चौथे स्तम्भ के रूप में है आप से अपेक्षित है कि हमे शीघ्र न्याय मिले, रोजगार मिले, जमा पूंजी मिले
    उसमे हमारी आवाज को पहचान दे,मुकाम दे
      पीड़ित परिवार 

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