Who would and how would the TRP of TV channels be regulated?

Nothing can better describe the game of Television Rating Point than the old saying that everything is fair in love and war. India has the world’s second largest TV market after China and today TV is perhaps the single biggest window of entry into any home for any business.

Here the mantra is what is seen sells and what sells survives. It is because of this that TRP is rigged. The reason for jacking up the TRP is that it is directly linked to the earnings of a channel through advertisements.  Of the total revenue, about 60% is attributable to advertising and 40% to subscription whose rates are controlled by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Data suggests that over 800 million individuals view TV in India every week while about 600 million individuals tune into the TV daily and spend roughly 3.45 hours per day watching TV. TRP shows how much the show is being watched, and to know the rating of a channel, a special device called People’s Meter is installed in selected places. The Broadcast Audience Research Council records TRP using Bar-O-Meters that are installed in televisions in selected households.  Anyone who watches television for more than a minute is considered a viewer.

The Mumbai police which lifted the lid off the TRP game claimed that households were being paid to manipulate the TRPs. Charge sheets were filed against many top notch journalists and officials alleging that the channels were manipulating TRPs by distorting the system used by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to rate television channels. TRP was rigged by bribing some of the sample households, from where viewership data is collected, into tuning into particular channels. It meant that TRP did not reflect the actual viewership. Doubts have been raised on many previous occasions about the working of the TRP. Indeed, no one wants to be regulated and the Fourth Estate believes it can better self-regulate.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had also set up a ‘Working Group’ under Prasar Bharti. The BARC has also undertaken revision in its processes, protocols, oversight mechanism and initiated changes in governance structure etc in the spirit of the TRP Committee Report and TRAI recommendation.

However, all this is not enough! Tehelka Cover Story by Special Investigative Team in this issue “TRPs for Cash?” finds out how unethical players in the media industry collude with unscrupulous executives to manipulate TRPs. The investigation probed a number of players spread across India, who were ready to fix a channel’s ratings in return for money.  There is an urgent need to check this TRP race as most of the channels try to incite hysteria in a bid to stand out from each other by defying ethics and established standards of journalism.