Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
India already has a long list of 'ghotalas', and the latest to hit the spotlight is the ‘TRP scam’. Well, it's not exactly new. It's an open secret in the TV industry that not only is the TRP system flawed, it is also easy to manipulate.
The race to be the number one channel is a maddening one, but how is this and the subsequent manipulation of TRPs affecting us, the viewers. We break it down.
What is TRP?
TRP or Television Rating Point is the tool used by most channels to measure how well the channel does every week, in terms of viewership. While there are several agencies that measure TRPs, the one followed by most channels is Broadcasting Audience Research Council or BARC.
They release data every Thursday, for different TV segments, which is why you will often see TV news channels advertise that they are 'the most watched', on their channels and other media.
How is TRP measured?
TRP is measured using a meter attached to a TV set, that captures what is being watched, at what time and for how long. Seems simple enough? Except, the TRP meters are attached to only 44,000 TV sets, in a country that has over 200 million TV households.
Which means a high TRP neither indicates most watched or highest quality. It simply means, that among the 44,000 households with the TRP meter installed, at one time, a particular show was the most watched. So, the system is already flawed to begin with.
HOW & WHY CAN THIS SYSTEM BE FURTHER MANIPULATED?
The system can be manipulated in two known ways, at least:
- By bribing the households with the TRP meter
- By bribing the middlemen
Why does everyone want to be the most watched channel? Simple. To attract you, the audience, and to attract the advertisers. And the latter has a lot to do with why TRPs are often, allegedly, manipulated.
Think about it, if one can claim that they are the most watched channel, won't advertisers automatically buy advertising time with them, helping the channel rake in the moolah?
And finally, if TRPs are rigged, who suffers?
The advertisers for sure. But also us, the viewers. Because, almost any and everything is being created and pushed on to us, in the name of being the most watched and the number one channel in the country.