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TRP is manipulatable, needs to change, say I&B Ministry, Prasar Bharati & PCI to House panel

Amid the ‘fake TRP’ row, the three agencies & parliamentary panel on IT were unanimous in their views that TRP isn’t a ‘robust system & has become dated’.

New Delhi: The television rating points (TRP) system is “manipulatable”, has become “outdated” and not a scientific method to measure television viewership, representatives from the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry, Prasar Bharati and Press Council of India (PCI) told the parliamentary panel on Information Technology Thursday. 

TRPs are an overall estimate of the number of people, across various socio-economic categories, regions and geographies who watch a particular channel during a specific time period.  

“Representatives from all the three agencies, which included Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati, were unanimous in their views that TRP is not a robust system and has become dated,” an MP, who is a member of the IT panel, told ThePrint on condition of anonymity. 

The Standing Committee on IT, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, met Thursday to hear the views of the I&B Ministry, Prasar Bharati and the Press Council of India on the subject of ‘Ethical Standards in Media Coverage’. 

The discussion by the panel comes close on the heels of a ‘scam’ unearthed by Mumbai Police last week revealing alleged manipulation of TRP data to boost advertising revenue by three TV channels, including journalist Arnab Goswami-owned Republic TV. The channel has been topping viewership charts regularly since it was launched.

A little over half-a-dozen members of the panel attended the meeting.

Representatives of News Broadcasters Association, who were also summoned, did not attend the meeting.

‘Need for tech innovations to replace TRP system’

The ministry, Prasar Bharati and the PCI as well as the members of the parliamentary panel were on the same page that the TRP system needed to be upgraded. However, there was nothing concrete on how or who will do it.

“MPs for a change were unanimous in their view that there is a need for technological innovations like Artificial Intelligence to replace the TRP system,” said a second member of the parliamentary panel, who did not want to be named. 

The member told ThePrint: “The concern is mainly regarding English news channels, where the audience is small compared to Hindi channels. Carrying random sampling of just 44,000 households’ viewership data to come up with ratings is deceptive.”  

In India, the TV viewership data is measured by a private agency, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). 

Based on the data, every Thursday, the agency releases weekly viewership rankings for channels. 

Following last week’s controversy, BARC Thursday decided to suspend publishing of weekly individual ratings for channels in the news genre.

The Print
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