India’s Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the television ratings agency, has announced that it will suspend publication of weekly individual ratings for all English, Hindi, regional and business news channels for up to three months.

In the meantime, a technical committee will review current standards of measurement with a view to improving the statistical robustness of the data and “significantly hamper” potential attempts at infiltrating panel homes, The Times of India reported.

BARC’s decision follows allegations, stemming from a Mumbai police investigation, that the viewership ratings of three channels – Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema – had been rigged in a bid to boost their target rating point (TRP) metric.

Considering the TRP system underpins the credibility of TV advertising, the row prompted several advertisers – including Bajaj, Parle, Dollar and Amul – to boycott news channels that spread “toxicity, abuse and fake news”.

Rajat Sharma, president of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and president of India TV, welcomed the boycott and promised that the NBA would stand with brands and advertisers in their efforts to help improve news content, the Economic Times reported.

“Advertisers and news broadcasters have to work together in this,” he said. “Recent revelations have shown that corrupted, compromised, irrationally fluctuating data is creating a false narrative on what India watches that run counter to the journalistic values.”

However, while Bajaj and the other companies have taken a public stance over the TRP issue, it appears most advertisers in India are currently taking a more cautious approach.

For example, Syska Group, one of the biggest advertisers on news TV, has kept clear from the boycott call, along with Hyundai Motors India. “Ours is an international brand, so nothing has been decided on that front,” Ravi Sharma, head of marketing and PR at Hyundai Motors India, told Exchange4Media.

Avinash Pandey, CEO of ABP News Network, also urged advertisers not to rush to judgment. “The entire news genre cannot be put under scrutiny. Only a select few channels have been reaping substantial illegitimate benefits,” he said.

“Advertisers can easily differentiate between channels that are promoting a brand of sinister polarisation and unethical journalism, from those who respect ethical values and speak truth to power,” he added.

Sourced from The Times of India, Economic Times, Exchange4Media