I&B Min steps in as TV channels fight allegations of fixing TRPs

Amid the heated TV news wars after the sensational revelation where the Mumbai Police claimed to have busted a major scam of manipulation of TRP (Television Rating Point) data by at least three TV channels and nabbed two persons, the Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry had to step in.

While mentioning no channel specifically, the I&B Ministry released an advisory asking channels not to defame or slander individuals or organisations. The advisory was issued to all satellite TV channels. The Ministry cited Rule 6 (1) (d) of the Programme Code which prohibits “anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half truths”.

The Ministry also cited Rule 6 (1) (i) that prohibits anything that “criticizes, maligns or slanders any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of the country”.

It cited a Delhi High Court verdict last month that hoped that the “media houses and television channels would show restraint in their reporting”.

This advisory comes in the wake of the Mumbai Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh naming Republic TV as one of the 3 channels who allegedly indulged in fraudulent activities to garner TRPs. What followed was a no-holds barred war between Republic TV and India Today TV where the former said that the latter is named in the FIR and India Today TV hitting back.

Just a couple of days back at an event Union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar had slammed TRP driven journalism. “We believe in self-regulation and freedom of the media. But the media needs to re-think TRPs. There should be a better way to monitor popularity. Responsible journalism should not suffer due to the pressure of TRPs,” Javadekar had said.

He added that when BARC, the agency that currently monitors television ratings, came into play, he had welcomed the move as he thought it would pave the way for self-regulation. But now those who created it are themselves coming and complaining about it, he added.

Javadekar had asked the audience to “remember” the kind of reportage that came out in the last “2 weeks or 2 months”. He had said that the media industry, at some point, will need to “stop, rectify or come out with a better version” of the current TRP model.

Interestingly, a recent IANS CVoter Media Tracker showed almost 74 per cent of the respondents treat news channels as a source of entertainment rather than real news and a whopping 76 per cent respondents found both categories of programming – news channels and soap operas prone to sensationalising.