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Republic TV complains to TRAI, BARC on Times Now’s genre slotting

Republic wants BARC to take note of Times Now’s shift to Hindi news genre impacting viewership

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MUMBAI: The ever-competitive business of TV news is set to witness another round of slugfest. Republic TV has complained to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) of India about English news channel Times Now getting the channel re-slotted under Hindi news genre on distribution platforms, which may impact viewership data.

A letter written by Republic TV earlier this month, reviewed by Indiantelevision.com, accused Times Now of getting some of the distribution platforms to place the channel “among the Hindi news sub-genre” as some of the programmes broadcast had “substantial Hindi content” as claimed by Times.

“This is a confusing development as BARC will report Times Now [viewership data] as part of the English news channel list,” the Republic complaint highlighted, adding, “if its proximity/neighbourhood is significantly among the Hindi news channels, it stands to distort viewership data.”

Republic has also exhorted BARC India, which is set to release soon its fresh and updated television-related annual data, to take note of distribution changes relating to Times Now as not an English-language news channel but “preferably” a Hindi channel.

However, changing of genres to boost sampling among viewers or resorting to dual or multiple LCNs are some issues not new to the Indian broadcast business. Nor is the animosity. that has prevailed between Times Now, former employer of Republic TV’s chief editor Arnab Goswami.

When Republic TV debuted last year, a clutch of news channels, later backed by News Broadcasters Association (NBA), had alleged the new entrant was resorting to dual LCN or multiple feed tactic to boost viewership. BARC had also been petitioned to suspend publishing of Republic TV’s data.

Times Now had also taken Goswami, promoter of Republic TV’s parent company, to the courts to desist him from using the phrase `nation wants to know’ claiming IPR over it as it was started when the flamboyant news anchor was with the Times group. Though Republic TV later became a member of NBA, Goswami had taken a swipe at Times Now calling it a cry baby.

Since then both the TV news channels had been making news off-air, while slugging it out to corner viewers’ attention in a continuing see-saw battle.

Asked about the issue of multiple feeds-strategy used by TV channels, TV market research company Chrome Data Analytics and Media CEO Pankaj Krishna told Indiantelevision.com that the unethical tactic was “still very much prevalent” despite a directive against it by regulator TRAI.

“According to Chrome, there were some 1,433 instances of dual LCN across all genres across the country as of last week, Krishna explained, adding, “The practice is mostly seen during blockbuster events like presentation of Union Budget (for business news genre) and during new launches as part of a channel’s marketing exercise. But such tactics have limited time impact.”  

TV Today Network managing editor Supriya Prasad was of the opinion if a TV channel was resorting to “unethical practices” to boost viewership, then it meant it didn’t have full faith in its own content. Aaj Tak is the leader of Hindi news genre as per BARC India Week 27 data.

Another industry observer felt as HSM or Hindi-speaking market is a big one, getting slotted in that category in the EPG “opens up reach of a channel”. However, the observer was critical of such attempts to boost reach and viewership: “If an English TV channel is present in the Hindi news genre, simply informing TRAI and the operator to keep within the right side of the law as it was doing small amount of Hindi content is cheating the system. It gains importance if BARC too is not made aware of such a development.”

It now remains to be seen how the regulator and BARC India will respond to the Republic TV complaint.

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