By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Oct 26:
While Mumbai Police till now has arrested 10 persons and has booked owners of five channels on charges of Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), has urged the Union government to withdraw the CBI probe into the scam, saying the speed with which the investigation was transferred to the central agency overnight raises doubts about intentions.
The channels include: “Fakt Marathi”, “Box Cinema”, “News Nation”, ”Maha Movies”, “Republic TV”. Those who have been arrested include: Ramji Verma (44), Dinesh Vishwakarma (37), Vinay Tripathi, Harish Patil(45), Abhishek Kolwade alias Amit Mahadik alias Ajit, Umesh Mishra, Vishal Bhandari (20), former employee of Hansa; Bompalli Rao alias Sanjiv Rao(44),Shirish Shetty(owner of Fakt Marathi) and Narayan Sharma(owner of Box Cinema),
In a statement, on Saturday, the NBA expressed serious concern at “the open-ended FIR registered at the by the Uttar Pradesh Police against the media for alleged TRP manipulation”. The FIR was recently registered at Lucknow’s Hazratganj police station based on a complaint from one Kamal Sharma, who claimed to run a media and advertising business called Golden Rabbit Communications. The FIR was registered against unknown people. The case, was subsequently transferred to CBI.
A complaint filed against unknown persons by an individual who has no locus standi may lead to a witch-hunt against the media, its advertisers and advertising agencies,” said the NBA. “We sincerely urge the government to immediately withdraw the case referred to CBI,” the NBA headed by Rajat Sharma said..
In its statement, the NBA also said that it is very disturbed at the turn of events in Mumbai as the “clash between Republic TV and Mumbai police is posing a threat to the credibility and respect of two great institutions, the media and the police. We are deeply concerned that journalists working in the newsroom have become victims of this unfortunate conflict”.
“We do not approve of the kind of journalism that is being practiced by Republic TV.
And even though Republic TV is not a member of NBA and does not subscribe to our Code, we still take strong exception to cases filed against its editorial staff. The NBA stands for the freedom of speech and expression of the media as enshrined in the Constitution of India. At the same time, we endorse the practice of ethics in journalism and put fair and balanced reporting at the core of what we report upon. We reprehend any attempt to target journalists doing their work in newsrooms but, on the other hand, it disapproves of any vengeful reporting by media. We condemn the reporting of baseless stories which subverts and interferes with the functioning of the law enforcement agencies”, NBA statement said.
NBA appealed to the Mumbai Police to ensure that no journalists are made victims of this crossfire. It also appealed to journalists working with Republic TV not to cross the ‘Lakshman rekha’ as clearly observed by the Bombay High Court. It also reiterated that it does not support toxic content and unethical journalism.
“News broadcasters are governed by the independent regulatory body, News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), headed by (Retd.) Justice A.K. Sikri. NBSA over the years has played an extremely important role in being a watchdog by monitoring content of news channels,” the statement said.
It has acted against well known national and regional broadcasters by levelling fines, apologies and warnings in several matters including the coverage of the death of late actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the NBA, which is a premier association of private news and current affairs broadcasters, said.
“We appeal that non member broadcasters be requested to follow the Code of Ethics and Guidelines of NBSA” it said. On the alleged TRP scam, the NBA said the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has a mechanism to deal with such cases. “An internal competent body headed by (Retd.) Justice Mukul Mudgal is capable and empowered to look into cases related to TRP data tampering. All cases related to TRP manipulation should be transferred to this authority,” the statement said.
TRP or Television Rating Points of a channel or programme are used to measure popularity by advertising agencies which affect pricing. The points are calculated in India by BARC, using a device installed in over 45,000 households across the country called “Bar-O-Meter”. The device collects data about a programme or channel watched by members of these households on the basis of which weekly ratings are issued by BARC. After the case was registered by the Mumbai Police, the TRP ratings have been temporarily suspended by BARC.