NEW DELHI: Reacting to Republic TV’s statement that Times Now used landing pages to artificially increase ratings, Times Network has released a statement clarifying that “landing pages are a perfectly clean marketing tool permitted by the law in India and very commonly used across the world by broadcasters and advertisers to market themselves to viewers.”
The network accused Republic TV of attempting to create a wrong impression on the usage of landing pages to divert attention from the matter at hand – the channel’s own purported role in the TRP manipulation case.
“Landing page (LP) simply refers to being present on the frequency that viewers see as the first channel when they switch on their set-top box attached to their TV set. The landing page is a standard feature of all digital set-top boxes and is the top advertising space to showcase channels to maximum viewers. Placement for better visibility is a basic marketing strategy used by all product categories and is the right of every business. It is the same when FMCG companies acquire top shelf space in supermarkets for higher visibility. Or advertisers place ads on the front page of newspapers at a high cost for the highest visibility. This advertising space on set-top boxes is available to all and is not done by any underhand deals. An important thing to note is that Landing page only gives the opportunity to watch a channel; the choice to change the channel immediately is available to all viewers,” it stated.
The Network highlighted that it had challenged the TRAI jurisdiction to rule in the usage of landing pages in December 2018 and set aside by TDSAT. The matter is now before the Supreme Court, wherein while staying TDSAT’s order, the court has directed TRAI not to enforce its direction against broadcasters during the pendency of the matter.
“This makes the use of landing pages absolutely legal and authorised activity,” it noted.
The statement further read, “It is also pertinent to note that a Landing Page Filtration Algorithm was officially announced by BARC on 3 September 2020, and Times Network has challenged this in Bombay high court and the matter is sub judice as on date. The 44-week forensic audit is for the period May 2017 to March 2018 when no such filtration policy was in place and BARC had no mandate to remove bonafide reach from landing pages. Any explanation that the tampered numbers during the 44-week period of the forensic audit were done to remove landing page impact, therefore, is spurious.”
The outlier policy or moderation policy is a mechanism provided by BARC Technical Committee to remove statistically significant anomalies, mainly abnormal TSV from unlikely homes or spikes in data that don’t represent the logical true picture. Times Network claimed that the outlier policy is the key provision that has been allegedly abused by BARC officials to manually intervene and deliberately improve channel ranks for “favoured channels.”
Hitting back at Republic, the network wrote, “Times Network uses only bonafide and legally valid means to do its business. It does not indulge in panel-tampering or bribing BARC officials which are cheating practises followed by unscrupulous players as is being unravelled in the ongoing investigation in the TRP scam for which the former BARC CEO is currently being interrogated in police custody. Times Network has optimised its product, brand and distribution with best-in-class inputs including landing pages at prevailing market prices to deliver its channels to maximum viewers and it is worthy to note that any increment in viewership is real and genuine. Our advertisers get genuine viewers that they have paid for, unlike on channels who allegedly manipulate ratings, where advertisers would have been duped to pay for artificially inflated numbers and non-existent viewers.”