TRP stands for “Television Rating Point or Target Rating Point, it is the metric used by the Advertising and Marketing agencies to assess the viewership. TRP shows the amount of time spent by people of different socio-economic categories in watching a particular channel. In India TRP is recorded by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) using Bar-O-Meters that are installed on televisions in appointed households. The Information & Broadcasting Ministry notified the Policy Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies in India on January 10, 2014 and registered BARC in July 2015.
The problem at hand is that currently there exist barometers in merely 45,000 odd households that represent the TV viewership of the entire country. Since the sample is small, the TRP data can easily be rigged by the person broadcasting, once the houses where the devices are installed are located i.e. one can then bribe the viewers to watch their channels. Moreover, since India follows the international standard of one minute to attain TRP, the broadcaster can ask the cable media operator to show their channel first whenever a person turns on the TV. The 1-minute standard can thus be easily met.
Recently, allegations arose against several news channels for manipulating TRP by altering with the sampling metering services and acquiring paid viewership. FIRs were registered against them by Mumbai Police for offences of criminal breach of trust (Section 409), cheating (420) and criminal conspiracy (120B) under the Indian Penal Code. There is an absence of any specific laws to punish the perpetrators. In the past the BARC too, has filed FIRs in various police stations against the agents/ suspects involved in panel tampering/infiltration but its efforts have been hampered due to absence of any law that deals with the same. Thus, there is a need for an exclusive legal framework to address the issue. Additionally, journalists must refrain from displaying merely TRP-centric news and must adhere to journalist’s principles and ethics.