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Parl panel on IT to take up 'fake TRP' issue: Sources

Last updated on: October 10, 2020 02:24 IST

Amid reports of manipulations in Television Rating Points (TRP) by some channels, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, has decided to take up the issue, sources said on Friday.


IMAGE: Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation racket case accused being produced at Esplanade Court, in Mumbai, on Friday. Photograph: PTI Photo

Congress MP and member of the panel Karti Chidambaram had requested Tharoor to take up the matter and call the officials of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry before the committee to seek clarification and remedial measures.

The sources said that the panel was serious about the reports of manipulations in TRP, and it will be discussed in length.

The government's advertising expenditure depends on this system, and public spending should not be based on flawed data, Karti said.

'Flawed or manipulated TRP cannot be the basis of ad spend. TV companies also base their valuations on TRP. Those valuations are questionable now,' he added.

TRP is a tool to judge which TV programmes are viewed the most and also indicates the viewers' choice and popularity of a particular channel.

Karti's demand that the parliamentary panel should take up the issue came a day after Mumbai Police claimed to have busted a TRP manipulation racket and arrested four people.

'The recent issues surrounding TRPs of television channels have cast doubts on the legitimacy and reliability of the system. TRPs produce essential data on television audiences in India and have become the primary basis for advertising decisions,' Karti said in a letter to panel chairman Tharoor.

'There is a need for further understanding this situation. In light of this, it is important that the standing committee take up this issue. Therefore, I request you to call before the Committee concerned officials of the responsible ministry, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, to seek necessary clarification on the current situation and remedial measures,' he said.

Echoing similar sentiments, former Information and Broadcasting minister and Congress MP Manish Tewari said the entire paradigm of TRP has vitiated the broadcasting industry, especially the news media, and it should be seriously taken up by Parliament and the government.

Tharoor was last month reappointed chairman of the reinstated Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, days after Bharatiya Janata Party members sought his removal for summoning Facebook officials before the panel.

Tharoor had called the officials of the social media giant over reports in the US media suggesting that it had not applied hate speech rules on members of the BJP and some right wing outfits in India.

Facebook executives did appear before the panel in early September, and they were asked several questions raised by MPs from the ruling as well as the opposition parties.

Police call Republic TV's CFO for questioning

Meanwhile, Mumbai Police on Friday issued summons to Republic TV's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in connection with the TRP manipulation racket it is probing, an official said.

Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram, CFO of Republic TV, was asked to join the investigation on Saturday morning, he said.

Besides him, the police also summoned accountants of Marathi channels Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema and those of a couple of advertising agencies, he said.

Milind Bharambe, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), confirmed that Republic TV's CFO has been called.

The summons to Sundaram said there are reasonable grounds to believe that he is 'acquainted with certain facts and circumstances of the matter and the same are required to be ascertained'.

He was asked to come to the city police's headquarters around 11 am, an official said.

The Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) of Mumbai Crime Branch is investigating the fake TRP racket.

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