NEW DELHI: The government is taking steps to build a robust, transparent and accountable rating system in India, said union minister Prakash Javadekar, highlighting the new recommendations which it is currently evaluating to review the system.
Last year in November, the Centre had set up a four-member committee to review the guidelines for television rating agencies including Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). The committee headed by Prasar Bharti CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati had submitted its report to the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) in January.
“The existing guidelines have provisions like methodology for audience measurement, panel selection, viewing platform secrecy and privacy, data analysis, transparency and complaint redressal mechanism which are essential for a robust, transparent and accountable rating system in India. Notwithstanding, based on the report of the committee headed by CEO, Prasar Bharati along with recommendations of TRAI, the present guidelines are being analysed and evaluated vis-à-vis shortcomings, if any. Any modifications may involve a thorough and elaborate review of the paradigm,” Javadekar said during question hour in the ongoing session of the Parliament.
The report also includes recommendations on measurement methodology, the structural changes in the composition of the rating agencies and audits, among others. It also addresses various issues referred to them including TRAI recommendations. The committee had independent members from IIT, C-DOT and IIM and was mainly tasked to study any issues related or incidental to the subject and make recommendations on a way forward for a robust, transparent and accountable rating system in the country.
The television rating system in India came under scanner when in October 2020, the Mumbai police claimed in a press briefing that they had unearthed a case of manipulation of TRPs and found some incriminating evidence. The police said the accused were allegedly bribing households with BARC bar-o-meters installed to keep a particular channel running, leading to several arrests. Three news channels - Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema - were named for their purported involvement in the scam. In light of the controversy, BARC temporarily suspended publishing of weekly data for news channels.
Javadekar informed the Parliament that BARC initiated a disciplinary council’s action to maintain panel sanctity and also pursued action against those involved in tampering the samples and has filed 11 FIRs through its vendor across many states.
The ratings agency was able to detect anomalous viewership behaviour and the cases filed are also due to the strong data security and vigilance system that BARC has set up, he insisted. The database of complaints is not centrally maintained. However, the issues pertaining to BARC are normally forwarded to the agency itself for appropriate action.
“In addition to the filing of FIRs, with a view to prevent instances of panel tampering and manipulation of audience measurement system, BARC regularly undertakes structural, regulatory and procedural changes as necessary to ensure that the viewership data so captured by BARC and its consequent reporting is as accurate and transparent as possible. Besides, a dedicated complaint redressal mechanism of the rating agency is also provided for in the Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies in India notified by the ministry of information and broadcasting on 16 January 2014,” the minister added.