An article written by exchange4media founder Annurag Batra has invited a defamation case by TV9 Network against the web portal that covers the media and marketing sectors in India.
The Associated Broadcasting Company Pvt Ltd, the parent company of TV9 Network, moved the Delhi High Court seeking to restrain the website or Batra from republishing or circulating the piece or any other defamatory articles. On June 22, a vacation bench of Justice Jasmeet Singh passed an seeking the web portal’s response and directing it not to republish or circulate the article until the court hears the matter on August 25.
In the over 2,000-word piece – titled “The Unanswered Questions about TV Ratings” – published on June 1, Batra referred to a “relatively new channel” that “achieved good ratings reportedly due to its war coverage”. It was assumed to be an oblique reference to TV9 Network.
Raising questions about the television ratings mechanism, from landing pages viewership to faulty data collection, the article asked how it was possible for viewers to be more interested in the Ukraine war than local elections. It raised this issue in the context of steep gains made by the channel in Punjab and Chandigarh markets even as a new political party was winning with huge margins in Punjab.
Batra asked how the channel started to do well after the announcement to resume television ratings, claiming that the time spent data of the channel – that had suddenly gained massive viewership – was not normal as compared to legacy channels. He alleged that this new channel was among two networks that pushed for ratings to return and gained the most from the decision. He also asked how these channels seemed sure of a spike in ratings.
However, TV9 moved court over the piece which it saw as replete with false equivalence and incomplete data.
Batra refused to comment on the matter when Newslaundry contacted him.
Written statements in the matter are to be filed within four weeks. It will be listed before the joint registrar for completion of pleadings on July 28 and before the court on August 25.
Newslaundry had earlier how TV9’s Hindi news channel, TV9 Bharatvarsh, leaped to the top position in the all-India group aged 15 and upward after BARC resumed its news ratings in March following a 17-month hiatus – purportedly to “review and augment” its processes when the Mumbai police unearthed a “TRP scam”.
In April, the News Broadcasters and Digital Association – which comprises legacy channels like India Today, ABP, Times Now, Zee, News18 and NDTV – “glitches” and “irregularities” in BARC’s ratings, singling out TV9 Bharatvarsh’s “unnaturally high” spike. How could it be that viewers were “glued to war coverage on TV9 Bharatvarsh”, the association asked in a presentation, even when election results were being declared in Punjab?
As per TV9, the spike was due to the “editorial supremacy” that the channel practiced with its Russia-Ukraine war coverage.
Russia had invaded Ukraine on February 24, and the channel immediately started telecasting live updates from the ground immediately, replete with graphics of atom bombs, fighter planes, and headlines warning viewers about the end of the world.
Barun Das, TV9 CEO, had earlier said that the channel had captured the audience from day 1 of the war. It continued the coverage for months at an end, even as its counterparts moved on to issues like the Gyanvapi mosque. “We thought viewers still have interest in the war because that is something that can influence the whole geopolitical scenario around the world. There’s a section of the audience that still takes interest in global geopolitical developments. So, there are people who are interested in knowing this – and we are the only ones capturing that interest,” Das Newslaundry.
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