Accused of rigging TRPs, Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV finds itself not just under the Mumbai police’s scrutiny but also facing off against India TV’s Rajat Sharma led National Broadcasters Association (NBA).
When Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) suspended TV viewership ratings for news channels over the fake TRPs scam, the NBA applauded this move. The organisation agreed that BARC needed to overhaul its systems and restore credibility. This sentiment, however, was quite obviously not shared by the Arnab Goswami led News Broadcasters Federation (NBF). The parallel association strongly objected to BARC’s decision.
NBA Vs NBF
The Rajat Sharma led NBA released a statement on 15 October that read, “Recent revelations have brought disrepute to the measurement agency and by extension the broadcast news media. The corrupted, compromised, irrationally fluctuating data is creating a false narrative on What India Watches and has been putting pressure on our members to take editorial calls that run counter to the journalistic values and ideals of journalism”.
Without naming Republic TV or any other channel, Sharma further added,
“The current atmosphere of toxicity, abuse and fake news is no longer tenable and NBA as the custodian and guardian of Indian broadcast media believes a bold step of putting ratings of news genre on hold will help in improving the content”.Rajat Sharma, President, NBA
Goswami’s NBF, meanwhile claimed that BARC did not consult the organisation before taking such a crucial decision. It further added that if BARC sincerely wants to review its system, rating across genres including General Entertainment channels, sports, movies and others should be paused as well.
“The decision is unilateral, one-sided and undemocratic, impacting and targeting one single genre within the broadcasting ecosystem. The decision will severely impact news broadcasters, who have seen a surge in ratings despite the challenges of a lower-than-expected economic growth that has impacted their revenues already, in addition to the financial impact created by the lockdown to prevent spread of Covid-19.”R Jai Krishna, General-Secretary, News Broadcasters Federation
The differing opinions between the two news broadcasters’ associations took a more personal turn on Sunday, 18 October after Arnab Goswami challenged Rajat Sharma to a one-on-one on India TV.
"I want to do a one-to-one with Rajat Sharma. Rajat Sharma, call me on your channel. I want you to face me. If he asks one question, I will ask two. If he asks two, I will ask four. If he asks four, I will ask 15. You are a senior journalist, and it is our culture to respect elders. But if someone lies about us, we know how to unearth truth. I want to tell this to your viewers," said Goswami.
TRP Violation: NBA Complained About Republic TV Before?
The National Broadcasters Association (NBA) has reportedly complained about Republic TV violating TRP guidelines multiple times before the scam came to light. TOI reported that NBA has written over 20 letters to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman against Republic TV in the last six months, for occupying multiple ‘logical channel numbers (LCNs)’.
While TRAI regulations permit a TV channel to have only one LCN on cable or DTH connections, NBA reportedly wrote that Republic has been using multiple LCNs and thus increasing its visibility. Higher visibility translates to higher TRPs.
Journalist Rajat Sharma wrote to TRAI stating, “Despite our various representations, Republic TV, which is a ‘News and Current Affairs’ genre TV channel in the English language category, is being re-transmitted on various networks in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry in the incorrect Tamil language category in the news genre and the said activity continues even today with impunity,” reported TOI.
Sharma reportedly alleged that this was being carried out by certain distribution platform operators at the “behest” of Republic. Quoting violations of multiple regulations, Sharma wrote that the violations have been left unchecked for the last couple of years.
Rajat Sharma further wrote to TRAI that if the violations were to continue, it would lead to a ‘hostile environment’, asking TRAI to intervene immediately before the ‘unhealthy practice’ spiralled out of control, reported TOI.