Rating agency BARC to pause audience estimates of news channels amid fake TRP fraud probe

Rating agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has decided to temporarily suspend news channels’ ratings following the fake TRP scam, the agency said in a statement on Thursday.

“BARC Board has proposed that it’s Technical Committee (Tech Comm) review and augment the current standards of measuring and reporting the data of niche genres, to improve their statistical robustness and to significantly hamper the potential attempts of infiltrating the panel homes,” the agency said in a statement, adding that starting with the news genre, BARC will cease publishing the weekly individual ratings for all news channels during the exercise.

The exercise, which the agency said is likely to take eight to twelve weeks, will cover all Hindi, regional, English news and business news channels.

BARC, however, will continue to release weekly audience estimates for the genre of news by state and language, the statement added.

Punit Goenka, Chairman of BARC India Board, said that the temporary suspension of ratings was necessitated “to enable the industry and the agency to work closely to review its already stringent protocols and further augment them to enable focus on collaborating for growth and well-natured competitiveness”.

The rating agency’s CEO Sunil Lulla said, “We at BARC take our role in truthfully and faithfully reporting ‘What India Watches’ with the greatest sense of responsibility and work with integrity to ensure that our audience estimates (ratings) remain true to their purpose”.

He added that BARC is actively exploring options to discourage unlawful inducement of its panel home viewers and further strengthening its code of conduct to address viewership malpractice, besides augmenting current protocols and benchmarking them with global standards.

The alleged fake TRP scam came to light when BARC filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers. It was alleged that some families at whose houses metres for collecting data of viewership were installed were being bribed to tune into a particular channel.

Last week, Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh had claimed that Republic TV and two Marathi channels – Box Cinema and Fakt Marathi – manipulated TRP for better advertisement revenue.

The Mumbai police then registered a case in the TRP scam against Republic TV and summoned the channel’s chief financial officer (CFO) S Sundaram for investigation.

The police have already arrested owners of channels Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema in the case.

Republic TV , meanwhile, has rubbished Singh’s claims.

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