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All you need to know about the 'TRP Scam'.

What is TRP?

TRP stands for Television Rating Point(s) which is a very important tool that tells which programme or a channel is being viewed the most. It is also a tool that indicates how popular a programme is. It also shows how many times a particular programme or a channel is being watched by the people.

The work of calculating the TRP is done by a government organisation known as BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council). BARC gives a list of statistics on a weekly basis which has many genres such as English Entertainment, English News, etc. or Hindi News, Hindi Entertainment or statistics of some regional channels, etc.

What is BARC?

BARC was founded in 2010 and jointly owned by advertisers, ad agencies, and broadcasting companies, represented by The Indian Society of Advertisers, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and the Advertising Agencies Association of India. While the ISA and the AAAI have 20 per cent representation on BARC’s board, the IBF has 60 per cent representation and owns 15,000 of its 15,001 shares.

How is TRP calculated?

BARC has installed “BAR-O-meters” in over 45,000 empanelled households. These households are classified into 12 categories under the New Consumer Classification System (NCCS), the so-called “new SEC” adopted by BARC in 2015, based on the education level of the main wage earner and the ownership of consumer durables from a list of 11 items ranging from an electrical connection to a car.

While watching a show, members of the household register their presence by pressing their viewer ID button — every person in the household has a separate ID — thus capturing the duration for which the channel was watched and by whom, and providing data on viewership habits across age and socio-economic groups. The panel chosen to capture TRPs must be representative of the country’s population and the methodology must be economically viable for the industry.

How can TRP Data be rigged?

If broadcasters can find the households where devices are installed, they can either bribe them to watch their channels or ask cable operators or multi-system operators to ensure their channel is available as the “landing page” when the TV is switched on. For TRPs, it does not matter what the entire country is watching, but essentially what the 45,000-odd households supposed to represent TV viewership of the country have watched. Broadcasters can target these households to fudge actual viewership data. In the 2018 consultation paper, TRAI said: “One of the biggest challenges has been the absence of any specific law through which the agents/ suspects involved in panel tampering/infiltration could be penalised”. It noted that BARC “has filed FIRs in various police stations against the agents/ suspects involved in panel tampering/infiltration” but its efforts “to mitigate panel tampering/ infiltration have been hampered due to absence of any legal framework”.

The controversy

Mumbai police busted a TRP scam (Television Rating Point) alleging TV news channels of paying viewers to manipulate viewership ratings. Twelve people were arrested by the Mumbai Police in connection with the case so far, including the distribution head of Republic TV, Ghanshyam Singh. All the accused were booked under Sections 409, 465, 468, 406, 120B, 201, 204, 212 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. ED registered the FIR after receiving information from Mumbai Police of there being a possibility of money laundering in the TRP scam which is being probed by the Mumbai Police.

The Mumbai police also arrested Partho Dasgupta, former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), in alleged connivance with another ex-senior BARC official and Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, manipulated the television rating points (TRP) of Republic TV and its Hindi arm. After the emergence of this big scam, BARC has stopped releasing TRPs for the news channels to review its current process. Also, the government has formed a committee headed by Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati to assess the existing rating system for TV channels.

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