From the Viewsroom

The TRP saga continues

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani | Updated on October 18, 2020

The concerns being raised over the TV ratings system are not new

TV audience measurement systems in India have been, for a long time now, riddled with issues surrounding inadequate sample size and inaccuracies. Even before the recent revelations made by the Mumbai Police, many concerns had been raised by the industry regarding the reliability of the existing TV viewership ratings system.

Even issues relating to the panel size (sample size) and panel tampering had surfaced, prompting the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to initiate a suo motu review of television audience measurement systems in December 2018. In April this year, TRAI recommended a major overhaul in the governance structure and operational framework of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, the joint-industry body set up for TV audience measurement.

One key recommendation was that the rating agency should increase the panel size from the existing 44,000 households to 60,000 by the end of 2020, and one lakh at the end of 2022. It also said that there was a need for the development of multiple data collection and rating agencies; once that happens, BARC should limit its role to publishing TV ratings, and framing methodology and audit mechanisms for rating agencies. As far as these recommendations are concerned, the ball is now in the Information & Broadcasting Ministry’s court.

The recent developments are also a bit of a déjà vu. In 2012, similar issues had come to the fore when NDTV  had filed a lawsuit against TAM Media and its parent companies in a New York court. These developments culminated in the I&B Ministry notifying policy guidelines for registration of rating agencies and BARC becoming the sole provider of TV ratings in 2015.

It seems not much has changed, with concerns regarding accuracy of TV ratings being raised again. This time, they are also intricately linked with the debate around the rising toxicity of content aired on news channels, under the garb of increasing TRPs. While BARC has decided to suspend weekly ratings for news channels for about three months, it remains to be seen whether the industry and the authorities can come together to fix the TV audience measurement system for good.

Published on October 18, 2020

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