TRP Reforms: An Overview

 

Author: Shankar Dev

 

One would not easily forget the Atrocity of Rakhi Sawant in “Rakhi ka Swayamwar” or plight(!!) of Shilpa Shetty in Big Boss. When Justice Verma committee was delivering its report on Crime against women, the news channels was having a hot debate on Sunny Leone’s definition of rape. So If you buy a Rs.10 stamp, then paste it in a A4 sheet and then file a RTI to **** channel, asking “why Sunnys are important than Vermas ??”  probably they’d answer you in just three letters –TRP. Yes TRP is The Boss who controls each and every content of these channels. Everything, from Anna Hazare to Sunny Leone, are the end products of TRP mania. So naturally you would ask why these channels are striving for TRP’s mercy?? What is TRP?? And who is determining it??

TRP

WHAT IS TRP:

  • Television/Target Rating Point (TRP).
  • It is a tool provided to judge viewership of any particular Programme or channel.
  • This gives us an index of the choice of the people and also the popularity of a particular channel.

HOW IT IS CALCULATED:

  • A device (box) is called as People’s Meter (costly equipment, which is imported from abroad) is attached to the TV set in a few thousand viewers’ houses for calculation purpose.
  • This box has buttons, and a number on the meter (like husband-1,wife-2,child-1,child-2) assigned to each person living in the household who is required to push as and when he/she starts viewing and push off the button when not viewing.
  • Each meter is capable of monitoring every second i.e24x7 and what is viewed by whom. The meter stores all these data.
  • Then it is periodically transmitted through the family’s telephone line or through some gateways to the central server.
  • This server is installed with specific algorithm to process the average taken for a 30-day period, of the data sent by Sample “people’s meters” and manipulate the TRP for particular program/channel.
  • It is calculated using two methods — i) frequency monitoring ii) picture matching technique. Second technique is more reliable and relatively new to India

WHO IS CALCULATING TRP:

  • AC Nielson, AGB GROUP, Gallup are the world leaders for TRP.
  • In India, AC Nielson – The Indian Television Audience Measurement (INTAM) duo calculates the TRP.

CONTROVERSY:

Virtually TRP has become the controller of the contents on TV. But all this power is vested with single company- Nielson, the monopoly is enjoyed by a single private firm. The present system of generation of TRPs and its adverse can have negative impact on the content of television programmes due to competition for higher TRPs. Doordarshan claimed it was the biggest loser in the current TRP race as its viewership was not correctly reflected. It had even approached the Competition Commission of India against the private body which currently brings out the TRP.

Realizing the disparities prevailing in the field ,TRAI had issued some recommendations for organizational reforms. Some of them are

  • Continuous improvement in quality and method of the rating system, to provide accurate, up to date and relevant findings.
  • To maintain the highest possible standards of integrity and to ensure that its findings are not misused / manipulated by anyone to convey a wrong impression.
  • To promote, maintain and uphold fair, ethical and healthy practices relating to ratings and its use.
  • Discourage unfair or deceptive practices employed in connection with the sale or use of ratings.
  • Observe and enforce the conditions / standards / norms prescribed by the Government for the ratings process.
  • BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council –a self regulated body by media houses) shall not undertake audience measurement directly and shall resort toan open, transparent bidding process for the various stages involved in the rating process; including (a) Establishment survey (b) panel design and quality control (c) recruiting and metering, data collection and processing and (d) Audit.
  • BARC shall provide such information and reports as may be asked for by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting from time to time.
  • BARC shall have in place a complaints Redressal mechanism, which shall be responsible for handling complaints, shortcomings and deficiencies in the 80 rating system brought to notice by Board of Directors, consumer organizations, users of ratings and the general public. BARC may consider the model followed by Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

Some Important recommendations of the committee are,

  • A High Powered Committee within BARC, to guide BARC in the area of research, design and analysis to be formed. The representatives of the committee would be eminent members from different fields which include a statistician of national repute, measurement technology expert, a renowned individual from Civil Society or Judiciary, a demographer, a sociologist, an economist, a business management expert from one of the IIMs, nominee of an eminent institution, a leading woman of national stature and three special invitees from BARC.
  • The recommendations of the High Powered Committee would be binding on BARC. The committee further recommends that BARC should consider suitable provisions in their articles of Association and Memorandum of Articles in this regard.
  •  The committee suggested that, BARC should have been set up as a self-regulating TRP body with a sample size of 30,000 people meters instead of 8,000 currently including the states of Jammu & Kashmir, North East, rural and urban India at an estimated cost of Rs 640 crore.
  • By the way the import duty on Peoples meter should also be reduced.

New TRP system:

  • As debate rages over the authenticity of television ratings point (TRP), the Centre( MoI&B) said a new rating system would be evolved by the broadcast industry may start generating TRPs by March 2014.
  • The TRP system will be designed by the Broadcasting Audience Research Council (BARC), a body to be set up the association of TV channels, IBF. (as per recommendation of the TRAI & Mitra committee).

Since TRPs have a major impact on the programming content of Television channels, issues of accountability, transparency and objectivity in Television Rating system assume greater significance as false and misleading rating can hurt not only broadcasters and the advertisers but more importantly the viewing public. The system of generation of Television Rating Points (TRPs) should come under the close scrutiny of the Government by considering, reports about several lacunae in the present rating system in India.

(Reference: PIB, TRAI, MoIB)

 

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