After “saving” our nation from Tablighi Jamaat and seeking “justice” for SSR, some of the “top” news channels now find themselves caught up in a TRP scandal. In this post, let’s understand TRP and what this scam is all about, shall we?
First things first: This whole game is for “c” meaning cash, i.e. brands and channels both want to earn it by making you, the public, another kind of “c”!
What is TRP?
Television Rating Point aka TRP by BARC is a very “loose” system of calculating how many people tune in to watch a particular channel. Let’s visualize this…suppose these Lego bricks in the following picture represent the TV audience of a given area:
This is you and me, watching TV, non-stop. The number of these households in India is estimated 20 crores. Let’s say each household has 4 people (nuclear) so that translates to 80 crore individual people watching TV.
Of course, the rating agencies do not visit each of those families, so to ask which channels they prefer watching…That’d probably take many years to measure!
They just grab a very small sample (44,000) out of this gigantic set of TVs, by placing a “meter” in those 44,000 TVs, and extrapolate it to 20 crore TVs in 20 crore households, and voila: You get top 5 channels!!
However, what’s worse is that out of this 44,000 sampling, only a percent of meters measure the viewership of “news” channels.
Now, the scam
The 44,000 households that “measure” TRP should ideally be kept in secrecy by BARC but they’re quite explicitly known to the world and that really is a catch!
This naturally allows a powerful company to influence those meter-holders. They may give incentives to those measurers hence, as a result, the scam as revealed by Mumbai Police.
This “fooling” of the TRP system is nothing new and has happened like so even before. Wherever there’s a catch, the big and mighty sure will take advantage of it, as they have, since time immemorial.
BARC, however, never admits as to how many meters were put to use to calculate the top 5 news channels…perhaps, because they themselves are ashamed by the numbers!?
Other means to influence numbers
There’s a much more lethal way to sway the TRP and that is by bribing the cable operators to forcefully show a “particular” channel first.
Some channels broadcast at more than one frequency…say between a movies layout, you suddenly find a news channel out of nowhere…and that, of course, take a lot of money!
Ideally, the TRP meters are to measure which entertainment channels people like to watch the most. But, news channels entering into this “TRP race” is becoming harmful not only for people but also for democracy, don’t you think so?
Solution to TRP problem
A channel uses TRP to basically tell the advertisers to market their products on it. The advertisers don’t really care which “medium” they use to sell their goods. They have no preference, in other words, generally speaking.
However, there’s a middle man in this case: an agency of adverts. This agency must work for the brand to create the ad, to negotiate with a TV channel, to run their ad.
Agencies usually take notice of the TRP as measured by BARC, since it is the only metric that there is.
Now, what the brands can do, as BAJAJ and PARLE have, that they can advise marketing agencies not to run their ads on any of the “toxic” news channels.
In this way, if all other brands concur, the toxicity from those news channels might see a drop.
The solution to TRP problem is, therefore, quite simple: Don’t take TRP seriously!