TDSAT's landing page ruling could trigger chaos in English news genre

Landing page activity will now reflect on the public viewership data

MUMBAI: The last week of May saw Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) set aside Telecom Regulatory Authority’s (TRAI) landing page directive in response to a plea filed by Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF), and MSO JPR Channel.

TDSAT chairperson Justice S K Singh and member AK Bhargava, hearing petitions challenging TRAI’s direction, had stated, “In our considered view, the impugned directions are beyond the provisions of the act, which empowers TRAI to issue directions. Therefore, the impugned directions must be set aside on this point alone. We order accordingly.”

The TDSAT order is significant for it could affect the TV ratings of genres with small viewership (and therefore small samples) like English news where landing page impact is quite heavy.

It’s a well-established fact that usage of landing page continues to be rampant particularly in India’s news broadcasting business, often leading to competitors squaring off among themselves on the issue. has learnt that TV audience measurement body BARC India has written to its subscribers on the issue. The letter states that BARC will not attempt to pursue any action against the removal of landing page/dual LCN impact from week 22 onward.

Sources tell us that BARC India had put in place algorithm-based controls, where the systems guided the impact of the landing page on TV viewership. However, with the TDSAT ruling, every landing page activity will now reflect on the public viewership data.

TDSAT's order is bound to intensify the viewership war among India’s top news broadcasters, the biggest beneficiary of which could be distribution platform operators (DPOs). According to industry estimates, DPO deals on landing pages range between Rs 20-30 crore per year.

From a legal standpoint, the TRAI can now approach the courts if it desires a reversal of the TDSAT order. However, those in the know suggest that the sector regulator may not be keen on taking that route.

In a 3 December 2018 direction, TRAI had asked all broadcasters and distributors to refrain from placing any registered TV channel, whose rating is being measured, on the landing page or the boot-up screen. While the TRAI diktat was enforced with immediate effect, the regulator had handed stakeholders a breather till 31 March to be fully compliant. The deadline was then extended to 31 May following a request from the AICF.

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