TRP probe: Unfair to see all news channels in the same light, say broadcasters

Industry heads have also opined that a better system can be put in place to ensure such malpractices do not occur

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Oct 14, 2020 2:14 PM
News

 The TRP manipulation case is being seen as one of the biggest disruptions to have taken place in the television industry in the recent past since this has the potential to impact the revenue side of things in more ways than one.

For the first time since the news broke out, news broadcasters share their views on the same with exchange4media. Such incidents bring down the credibility of the Television Rating Points (TRP), the single most important currency of the TV ecosystem, they opine.

Sharing his views on the issue, Sudhir Chaudhary, Editor in Chief of Zee News, Zee Business and Wion, said the ongoing TRP controversy has exposed what is wrong with the news channels today. “News channels are playing to the advertisers gallery, the result is that  news is not organic. The viewer is your real client not the advertiser. News channels are obsessed with cracking just the TRP model, nothing else matters to them. This has led them to copy each other to an extent that now they all look similar in their content. Also, newsrooms are not making content that is benefitting or empowering the viewers. News channels need to course correct their editorial stance.”

According to MK Anand, MD & CEO, Times Network, “Manipulated viewership data is used by unscrupulous channels to cheat advertisers and competitors. Such channels cause irreparable loss to honest players like us besides fooling the nation. We had flagged off the inexplicable and abnormal rise in the ratings of some channels in different markets to relevant authorities at different times in the past.”

Some other industry heads too said that a better system can be put in place to ensure such malpractices do not jeopardize the future of channels that believe in fair play.

Sharing more on this was Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network. “BARC needs to come to grips with the root cause of the problem. There is a need for them to collaborate with the industry to measure performance more appropriately and accurately. Our industry is now in a dire need of a better system and mechanism that is fair, transparent and free of any influences and malpractices.”

On the recent investigations, Anand said, “Despite ours and BARC’s efforts, much of this had stayed under the radar. This new development gives us hope that our doubts may be proven right after all, and necessary corrections will be made to ensure fair practice is enforced. We are confident this event will ensure that advertisers are suitably warned and will now take precautions before deciding on the right media vehicles for their brands.”

With regard to advertisers, Pandey said all channels cannot be seen with the same lens. “The entire news genre cannot be put under scrutiny. Only a select few channels have been reaping substantial illegitimate benefits. Advertisers can easily differentiate between channels that are promoting a brand of sinister polarization and unethical journalism, from those who respect ethical values and speak truth to power. One cannot generalize all news channels within the same purview of content and inculpate the entire genre for just one incident.”

Assuring that advertisers will look at content and not just the numbers, the ABP Network CEO said: “Advertisers will surely choose authenticity and quality of content over numbers, because these factors directly impact the image of the brand. We, at ABP Network, have been ardently chasing our mission to inform and empower our viewers through powerful, impactful, and inspiring stories. We believe in ensuring the highest ethical standards of journalism and speaking truth to power. And this shall always remain our earnest endeavour.”

For Varun Kohli, CEO, iTV Network, advertisers have their own perspective, choices and opinions as far as news content is concerned. "It’s a very news heavy environment right now and because of the cost-effective delivery by the genre, it is taken up in most of the clients' plans."

I believe that this ongoing controversy around TRPs will settle down after it reaches its logical conclusion. Am sure a more robust framework will emerge out of it.

To put things into perspective we can take a look at some figures put out by the Pitch Madison Advertising Report of 2020, which clearly states that TV is still the largest contributor to AdEx and in 2019 TV AdEx grew by 8% to Rs 25,291 crore. In terms of absolute numbers, TV AdEx has grown by Rs 1,860 crore in 2019, the report says.

In terms of AdEx, the single-most important factor in terms of decision making for an advertiser is the reach of an individual TV channel, and that is where BARC’s audience measurement system and TRP comes in.

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