Getting TRPs Right

EARLIER this month, Mumbai police claimed to have busted a Television Ratings Point (TRP) scam. In a press conference, Mumbai top cop Param Bir Singh alleged that three television channels including the Arnab Goswami owned Republic Television manipulated viewership ratings by paying people to watch their channels. The scam has shaken the television industry. According to Television ratings, Republic TV is the most watched news channel in the country, so the scam has exposed it to be largely manipulated. As per Mumbai police, the families were being paid Rs 400-500 to keep the three channels switched on to fudge the ratings. Cops have arrested four people so far, two of them owners of the two Marathi channels accused of being involved in the manipulation. Mumbai police has also recorded statements of Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Republic TV.

However, what has been revealed so far is more or less along expected lines. It was suspected all along that there is something amiss with the TRPs and some channels like the NDTV with lower ratings had even been complaining about it. News channels these days resort to all sorts of tricks and toxicity to get the higher ratings. The anchors peddle hate, outrage and communalism explicitly to boost ratings. And Kashmir has been at the receiving end of such reportage. One can’t help experiencing a helpless sense of outrage at the way the facts are thrown to winds when it comes to analyzing the issues facing the region and the way an entire community is demonized. Most of the leading anchors and the talking heads, except those from the Valley dabble profusely in communal innuendo and outright threats against the region to hammer their arguments home. Also apart from working up hate for Kashmiris, the channels have also simplified the fiendishly complex issue of Kashmir. The result is abetment to revenge in Kashmir than a search for a solution to the deepening crisis in the region.

Similarly, on Pakistan we are generally witness to an angry, high-decibal television, screaming headlines and a load of dramatic opinion in print with more or less one objective: more readership, more viewership and more TRPs. As is often the case, this persuades the political class also to play to the gallery. What follows is a series of competing statements, threats that further stir the crucible of hate. Here is hoping that the TRP scam also throws light on this no-holds-barred competition to reach the audience that involves playing to the basest instincts of the audience. One of the first steps to address the toxic media scene in the country to make the TRPs an authentic barometer of the viewership of these channels. This might show that hate after all doesn’t pay as much as is believed.

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