The alleged "TRP scam" revealed by the Mumbai Police has sparked a debate regarding the media industry in India. In this context, data provided by a recent survey by CVoter is extremely important.
But before we go into that, a brief recap of what this alleged 'TRP scam' actually is.
- In a press conference on Thursday, 8 October, the Mumbai Police claimed that it had busted a "TRP scam". The 'scam is that Television Rating Points (TRPs) were being rigged – people were being paid to watch certain channels, to boost their TRPs.
- The press conference, led by Commissioner of Mumbai Police, Param Bir Singh, named Republic TV and two other Marathi channels as being involved in the malpractice. Four people have been arrested in connection with the matter and Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami is also likely to be summoned.
Now for the Survey
The survey was conducted in the past few weeks by CVoter with a sample size of 4500 across the country. Respondents were asked several questions pertaining to the media. Six findings are of particular relevance:
- 73.9 percent people surveyed said that news channels in India "are more of entertainment than real news". Only 22.5 percent disagreed with this.
- 76.7 percent said that TV News channels and TV serials both "sensationalise and scandalise everything". Only 20 percent disagreed with this.
- 75.9 percent said that there is "more quarreling and screaming than real debate on TV news channels".
75.9% people said that TV news is more of screaming than real debateCVoter Survey
- 66.5 percent said that for them newspapers are the most important source of information.
- 72.9 percent said that "a newspaper report gives more information than a shouting TV news channel debate".
- 63.1 percent said that reading newspapers has become more important for them after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite all of this, the viewership of news channels hasn't gone down. 81.2 percent people said that they watch news channels at least once daily. What explains this?
“It is not despite it but because of it. People are watching news channels for entertainment and they are acknowledging it in as many words,” said Yashwant Deshmukh, founder of CVoter, which conducted the survey.
“People are watching news channels for entertainment and acknowledging it in as many words.”Yashwant Deshmukh, founder CVoter
The clubbing together of TV news and TV serials as both sources of "entertainment" for nearly three-fourths of the public, is a major indictment of what TV news has become.
News Channels Competing With TV Serials
There is a context to this. In their hunger for TRPs, many news channels feel that they need to compete not just with other news channels but also TV serials, because there is often a clash between the two during prime time hours.
Hence, such channels feel that the way to do it is by including elements of drama and entertainment within news. Had this been through coverage of entertainment it would still be fine, but this has come in the form of slanging matches and sensationalised or dramatised news.
“If you go back to the pre-TV era, at least in Hindi, Manohar Kahaaniyaan and Nutan Kahaaniyaan would always have more readership than weeklies like Saptahik Hindustan. But they would always be considered separate from news. We now have a peculiar situation in which news channels are competing with TV serials by dramatising news, focussing on crime and scandals and showing pulp content,” Deshmukh said.
“We now have a peculiar situation in which news channels are competing with TV serials by showing pulp content.”Yashwant Deshmukh, founder, CVoter
Apparently, the viewership of news channels went up during the COVID-19 lockdown, and it wasn't so much due to the desire for information, which is evident in the fact that 63.1 percent people said that newspapers became an important source of information during Corona.
The reason for spike in viewership is because news channels ended up filling the entertainment vacuum created by the stopping of production of TV serials and reduction in the frequency of episodes.
“Newspapers have staged a comeback in this period as they were acknowledged as the source of authentic and useful information,” Deshmukh said.