The Mumbai police have made public purported Whatsapp chats that show Partho Dasgupta, the former CEO of the TV ratings measurement agency BARC, colluding with Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami to manipulate TV ratings.
Reacting to the “revelations” on Monday, the News Broadcasters Association, which represents over two dozen broadcasters, expressed its shock and that the chats “clearly establish collusion between the two in manipulating ratings to garner greater viewership numbers for Republic TV month after month by fraudulently manually reducing ratings of other channels to give Republic TV an unfair advantage”.
The association, led by Rajat Sharma of India TV who Dasgupta and Goswami talk about in their conversations, noted that the chats not only show manipulation of TV ratings but influence peddling. “The messages exchanged go on to refer to the appointment of Secretaries, Cabinet reshuffle, access to the PMO, and the workings of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This only confirms the many and continuous allegations made by NBA in the last 4 years that ratings were being manipulated by a non-NBA member broadcaster in connivance with BARC’s top management officials,” it said.
In light of this, the NBA demanded that the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, or IBF, membership of Republic TV be suspended until the matter related to the TRP manipulation is resolved in a court of law. The NBA also stated that the manipulation of ratings has “immensely damaged” the reputation of the broadcast ministry, which should thus be kept out of the BARC rating system until the final court order.
It also noted that the association had already conveyed to BARC that since its ratings were unreliable, they should continue to be suspended in light of the "recent revelations which show the arbitrary nature of functioning" at the agency. "It shows that there are no checks and balances and the ability of a few within BARC to easily change the ratings as they deemed fit, making the system subjective to the whims and fancy of the management versus being an objective transparent system," the statement said.
The association argued that the “corrupt data” released month after month has not only harmed reputations but also caused huge financial losses to news broadcasters, for which BARC is duty-bound to give an explanation.
The NBA called on BARC to make a statement about the veracity of its ratings in the period under the scanner and also conduct an audit of TRPs for the Hindi news genre. It demanded that BARC explain the concrete steps taken in the last three months to secure ratings.
It also asked BARC to bring transparency to the process and create a system whereby any changes to the ratings that impact the news ecosystem are made only after due consultation with a BARC subcommittee of NBA nominees.