Rejuvenating Indian television: Looking beyond TRP
Dr. N Bhaskara Rao’s book 'TRP Trick: How Television in India was hijacked' was launched on Tuesday. At the event, experts discuss how TRP is driving TV content today
Chairman of Prasar Bharati Dr. Surya Prakash on Tuesday released a book written by Founder Chairman of CMS Dr. N Bhaskara Rao, ‘TRP Trick: How Television in India was hijacked'. Kiran Karnik, former CEO of Discovery Channel, introduced the book at the event held in New Delhi.
The book release was followed by a panel of esteemed speakers discussing the topic ‘Rejuvenating Indian Television’. The panel comprised Ashok Venkatramani, Managing Director, Zee Media (News); Anuradha Prasad, Chairperson, BAG Network; veteran journalist and Padam Shri Alok Mehta; Sunil Gupta, Secretary, TRAI; and K G Suresh, Director General, IIMC.
Moderating the session was P N Vasanti, Director General, CMS, who brought up the topic of how to make the medium of television more meaningful to our culture and society. She said, “Compared to television, demand for content is growing higher on video, digital, mobile and YouTube etc. In such times, how are we shifting gears to meet both business and content sides of the TV industry? How can the entire eco-system be made more sensitive to the diverse interest of our audience?”
Commenting on it, Ashok Venkatramani said, “Today, it’s a conspiracy of convenience where broadcaster, advertiser, regulator all are happy with the status quo. While this is the reality, it isn’t actually a happy situation. I strongly believe that there is space for every single medium in this country. There’s enough headroom for growth, be it television, print or digital. India is a young country with high chances of growth in all domains. I don’t think there’s a need to worry about television being in a bad shape. The key challenge for TV is about making itself relevant in the changing eco-system today. Television companies are realising very fast that the news and the way it’s conveyed is crucial, the platform or the medium isn’t. TRPs are not relevant at all, if companies are really interested in creating brand equity or credibility.”
Anuradha Prasad, Chairperson, BAG Network, shared the manner in which BAG Network managed its business and content. “It is very easy to discern, dissect and condemn but difficult to survive and be the one executing it out all. I started my news channel with the tagline ‘news is back’. I promised myself that I’d remain true to my journalism ethics that taught me to show news and not TRP-favouring shows. But then, the ratings came as -4. I then spoke to authorities at TAM and I was told that I must telecast shows of a certain kind in order to get high TRPs. I wasn’t in agreement with what I was told,” she said.
“But even then I survived. And it was only because of the passion, commitment and cause. You decide come what may, I would stick to my ethics. I wish there’s a competition to TAM and BARC, but sadly there’s none. I wish we had set up distribution platforms earlier. If TRAI today announces that there will be no TRP in India, you will see how the content paradigm will shift,” Prasad said.
Adding to the argument, Alok Mehta, said, “It’s crucial to build an eco-system that goes beyond this number-driven practice and is more of citizen-committee driven. Everyone is watching television. What the industry needs to work on is to make sure that media gets to be self-disciplined. Hence I request all media organisations and media schools to make this book a part of their curriculum. The issue with TRPs needs to be resolved.”
Explaining the purpose of the consultation paper issued by TRAI on Monday & the authority’s vision for the broadcasting sector in India, Sunil Gupta, said, “When private channels started increasing their operations in India, the primary focus shifted from educating people to making as much money as you want through this business. The mindset of broadcasters and other stakeholders has not changed and customers are not ready to choose from the price options available. When Hindi-speaking viewers are watching an English channel and you count those Hindi viewers as your audience, you as an English channel are modifying the TRPs, which is wrong. While this is happening at a huge scale, the question is who is to be blamed for this. Again, world over, the concept of impression is being adopted to see what is the weightage of a channel. We are fully aware of the incidences of tampering and influences happening around. Once industry reforms and consumers have choices, TRP ratings will not be of consequence any longer.”
Discussing the future of the television medium in our society, K G Suresh, Director General, IIMC, said, “In media, I think we are not sure, whether we are a leader or a follower. If I am a leader, I will have to develop a niche, I cannot be following the mob. The concept of TRP goes for a toss here itself. In a country like India, we can surely develop a taste for good content. I don’t think the domain of market research in our industry has been discovered entirely before planning the programming. Good content alone can give you audience. Here TRP does not come into the picture. Today, on social media, people are going to rate you and also demolish you if you don’t present good content. It’s social media that is driving news agenda today and not television. Topics that go viral on social media end up becoming the 9 pm debate subjects.”
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