The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) on Thursday hailed as a “bold step” the decision of the Broadcast Audience Research Council to temporary suspend weekly ratings of news channels, and urged the ratings agency to completely overhaul its systems for restoring the credibility of the information it collects.
Following the alleged fake Television Rating Points (TRP) scam, the BARC has stated that it intends to review and augment the current standards of measurement to improve on “statistical robustness”, and the exercise will result in a “pause” in the weekly ratings for up to 12 weeks.
The exercise would cover all Hindi, Regional, English News and Business News channels with immediate effect, BARC said.
Reacting to the development, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) said it welcomes the decision of the BARC to suspend the measurement of television viewership ratings.
In a statement, the NBA, which represents the news broadcasters, said it believes that the suspension is an “important step in the right direction”.
The NBA said BARC should use these 12 weeks to “completely overhaul” its systems and “restore the credibility” of the information it collects about “what India watches”.
NBA president Rajat Sharma said the 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,” Sharma said.
“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,” he said.
For many years, the NBA has been highlighting its concerns about the veracity of TV viewership data, which have been prone to irrational fluctuations, he said.
Recent events have shown that there is much more at stake than just the measurement of news channels’ popularity, he said, adding that a healthy and vibrant TV news industry is vital to Indian democracy.
“We expect that the period of suspension will be utilised to implement important reforms at BARC. To safeguard the integrity of viewership data, human intervention in its collection and processing must be totally eliminated,” he said.
Data security, including encryption and restricting access to key information, must be ensured, Sharma said.
“Complaints, if any, should be dealt with in an independent and transparent manner. NBA also expects greater consultation and openness when important decisions are taken by BARC,” he said.
“We look forward to meaningful discussions and swift decisions which are in the interest of viewers, the industry and the public as a whole,” Sharma said.
NBA is the premier association of private news and current affairs broadcasters.
At least five people have been arrested by the Mumbai Police which busted the scam earlier this month.
Those arrested include news channel employees, while the police is also questioning executives of Arnab Goswami-led Republic Media Group with regard to the case. Republic Media Group has denied any wrongdoing.
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