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TRP system biased towards urban, IT committee tells MIB

The committee drew MIB's attention to the recently reported episodes of manipulation of TRPs by some TV channels by rigging the devices used by BARC

by exchange4media Staff
Published - Dec 3, 2021 8:58 AM  |  3 min read

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The Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has recommended to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) that the existing TV viewership measurement system under BARC India is heavily biased towards urban areas. It has also asked the MIB to make the system more transparent by giving equal weightage to urban and rural areas. "The Committee also finds that the present TRP system is heavily biased towards urban areas and there is a need to change the system of measurement by giving equal weightage to rural and semi-urban areas through increasing the sample size," the committee said in a report titled 'Ethical Standards in Media Coverage'.

While noting that BARC India has a sample size of 44,000 households, the committee noted that census-wide measurement is done typically in the digital world. To solve the problem of a lower sample size, the committee has suggested that the Return Path Data (RPD) technology through the set-top box (STB) installed in TV homes can be explored. "Google or Facebook measures it across the board, and there everyone is measured and not just a sample. However, on television, there are challenges because for such ratings return-path data and set-top boxes are needed. Every set-top box has to measure usage, but there will be privacy issues. This makes it a complicated matter, but certain pilot projects are being conducted globally. The Committee’s attention was also drawn to the fact that in India some of the operators like Tata Sky and Airtel do the measurement at the level of their set-top boxes though they do not share the data with BARC. Further, around 80 percent of the households use Set-Top Boxes," it added.

The committee also said that it is not satisfied with the present system of measuring of TRP. It also drew the attention of the MIB to the recently reported episodes of manipulation of TRPs by some TV channels by rigging the devices used by BARC. "This has put a big question mark on the objectivity, accuracy, efficacy, and transparency of the current system and clearly indicate how the ratings can be manipulated by some channels in connivance with the BARC officials," it noted.

To make the system more transparent and accountable, the committee suggested that the ministry should study global practices adopted in the TRP system including the possibility of finding a solution to the privacy issues in the STBs through appropriate technical measures such as the use of scramblers to ensure accuracy, confidentiality, and transparency within the TRP system.

It also asked the MIB to table the four-member committee's report that was formed to review the existing TV rating guidelines. "The Government has constituted a Committee to examine BARC. The Committee desire that the Report of the BARC inquiry Committee, commissioned by the Government of India, must be placed before them for examination."

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