Namaskar! Aap dekh rahe hain News TV, aapke pyaar ne hame banaya hai desh ka sabse jyada dekhe jaane wala news channel…
You must have either seen these headlines flashing in big fonts on the top of your TV screen, or heard news anchors boastfully proclaiming them. How do they make these claims? Are they even true or at least fair? Let’s understand what it is all about.
The source of all the claims TV news channels make is BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) India, which provides the statistical figures about the viewership of channels and advertisers. It is a body jointly owned by ad agencies, advertisers, and broadcasting companies, represented by The Indian Society of Advertisers, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, and the Advertising Agencies Association of India.
These dynamic stats are used to produce a dynamic ranking, in which channels are ranked according to their ratings, also known as Television Rating Points (TRP).
TRP represents a number of people belonging to different socio-economic categories who watched their favorite channels for a specific time (an hour, a day, or even a week). This entire record of viewership is made accessible through public domains.
The BARC installs a measuring device, also known as ‘BAR-o-meter’ in about 45,000 households with each one having a distinct ‘viewer ID’. Every person, when watching the TV, registers their presence by pressing their ‘viewer ID button’, and then the information regarding what that person is watching and for how much time is stored. This information taken from all the empanelled households helps in constituting the Television Rating Points.
The households are classified into 12 categories under the New Consumer Classification System in which education level of main wage earner, and the ownership details of various consumer durables like electricity connection or an asset like car is taken into account.
TRPs feed on sensationalism. All the nonsensical way of presenting news starts making sense when we ask the question; why do they that? The answer is because sensationalism helps in grabbing attention, and that culminates into an increase in viewership. This inclining graph of viewers count motivates advertisers to air their advertisements on these ‘high-TRP’ channels. More ads mean more money. One can also indirectly assume that higher TRP means more money.
TRP, in itself, is like a survey which tells about the interests and preferences of a consumer/viewer. The channels, by considering these ratings, can decide what their next move would be; for example they can change their strategy, presentation, content etc. A show which does not conform to the people’s wish will go down as it will receive low TRP and advertisers will be unwilling to air their ads during the breaks, thus making difficult for a particular show to survive.
- Too small sample size. How can a mere 45,000 connections paint the picture of what the TV sets of entire India (17 crore TV sets) look like?
- Often it happens that the cable service provider does not provide a specific channel. This can vary regionally as there are numerous cable service providers. Now this can lead to an unjust representation of what people watch when taking a specific region into account.
- There have been allegations that the empanelled households are paid by some channels so that people of these households keep running their channels on the TV, even when they are not watching. If this is true, then it makes the whole system rigged; a scam in itself.