Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Television Rating Points (TRP) System and its loopholes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TRP, BARC

Mains level : TRAI and its regulations of telecom services

Mumbai police are investigating the alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRP) by an extremely right-wing opinionated news reporter.

Try this question:

Q.What do you mean by “TRP Journalism”? Discuss the loopholes in the present system of self-regulation in Indian media.

What is TRP?

  • In simple terms, anyone who watches television for more than a minute is considered a viewer.
  • The TRP or Target Rating Point is the metric used by the marketing and advertising agencies to evaluate this viewership.
  • In India, the TRP is recorded by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) using Bar-O-Meters that are installed in televisions in selected households.
  • As on date, the BARC has installed these meters in 44,000 households across the country. Audio watermarks are embedded in video content prior to broadcast.
  • These watermarks are not audible to the human ear, but can easily be detected and decoded using dedicated hardware and software.
  • As viewing details are recorded by the Bar-O-Meters, so are the watermarks.

What is BARC?

  • It is an industry body jointly owned by advertisers, ad agencies, and broadcasting companies, represented by The Indian Society of Advertisers, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and the Advertising Agencies Association of India.
  • Though it was created in 2010, the I&B Ministry notified the Policy Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies in India on January 10, 2014, and registered BARC in July 2015 under these guidelines, to carry out television ratings in India.

How are the households selected?

  • Selection of households where Bar-O-Meters are installed is a two-stage process.
  • The first step is the Establishment Survey, a large-scale face-to-face survey of a sample of approximately 3 lakh households from the target population. This is done annually.
  • Out of these, the households which will have Bar-O-Meters or what the BARC calls the Recruitment Sample are randomly selected. The fieldwork to recruit households is not done directly by BARC.
  • The BARC on its website has said that the viewing behaviour of panel homes is reported to BARC India daily. Coincidental checks either physically or telephonically are done regularly.

Vigilance activities by BARC

  • Certain suspicious outliers are also checked directly by BARC India.
  • BARC India also involves a separate vigilance agency to check on outliers that it considers highly suspicious.
  • And as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, these households rotate every year.
  • This rotation is in such a manner that older panel homes are removed first while maintaining the representativeness of the panel.
  • The Ministry guidelines further say that the secrecy and privacy of the panel homes must be maintained, and asked the BARC to follow a voluntary code of conduct.

What are the loopholes in the process?

  • Several doubts have been raised on many previous occasions about the working of the TRP.
  • As per several reports, about 70% of the revenue for television channels comes from advertising and only 30% from subscriptions.
  • It is claimed that households were being paid to manipulate the TRP.
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