Ranjona Banerji: Murky journey over India’s TRP fraud gets filthy

20 Oct,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The battle over Television Rating Points (TRPs) continues its murky journey into the filth of the fight for revenue. There is also the additional drama of the fight between Republic TV and the Mumbai Police.

After the Mumbai Police unearthed a scam where channels bribed people to pretend that they watched their channels and thus rig their ratings, and arrested six people, the Broadcasting Audience Research Council has suspended all ratings. The biggest “catch” for the Mumbai Police has been the Republic Network.

BARC, an industry body which handles ratings, is also upset with Republic Network for leaking a confidential communication to “fabricate facts”. Much like Republic Network does in its regular day job, one might argue.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/barc-charges-republic-tv-with-misrepresenting- private-communication/article32890924.ece

Where does the media stand on this? Why isn’t the media up in arms against the Mumbai Police for infringing on the Constitutional rights of a free press? Why indeed.

For my part, I do not consider Republic Network a journalistic enterprise or exercise by any stretch of the imagination. It is certainly a media enterprise. But as far as journalism goes, it is a propaganda channel for the BJP and a largescale purveyor of lies and hatred. One can only feel sorry for any actual journalists who joined it or work there to make a living.

And it’s not just the BJP and Narendra Modi propaganda that is the problem with Republic TV. The despicable assault that it made on people, especially the actress Rhea Chakraborty, in order to make a massive melodrama out of the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput is reason enough to question the channel’s credentials.

Journalists, no matter how superior we consider ourselves, also operate under some rules. Putting forward wild theories and unsubstantiated allegations as fact is not journalism. There is a price to be paid for spreading lies and hatred. Perhaps this is it. And as BARC’s objections to Republic TV suggests, telling lies or manipulating and hiding facts is perhaps an essential element of the Republic Network’s modus operandi.

The channel takes its cue from its boss, Arnab Goswami and he is the chief perpetrator of allegations and lies. It is not possible to soft-soap this. There are innumerable examples of bad journalism available and sadly, for now, most of them come from Indian television. But Goswami is undoubtedly the standard bearer for how not to be a journalist, although he was one many years ago. I can barely even remember the times when I praised his work in these columns! From his last days at Times Now to his life at Republic TV, there has been a downward spiral to the obnoxious behaviour of his channel now.

Having run from court to court, Republic Network has now decided to sue the Mumbai Police Commissioner for ₹200 crore. They are well within their rights, but Republic Network’s role in this TRP scam has affected all of Indian television.

https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/other/arnab-goswami-and-republic-to-sue- mumbai-police-commissioner-param-bir-singh-for-rs-200-crore-over-trp-scam- case/articleshow/78753585.cms

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Meanwhile, journalists continue to be targeted by the state for speaking out against discrimination and incompetence. No crores being spent to save them by their employers or the media community either. That sort of money is only for privileged propagandists and purveyors of hate.

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The Editors Guild of India, under fire in the past six years for its cowardly inability to criticize in any strong terms the actions of the Narendra Modi government and any BJP government, has seen a remarkable and interesting change in leadership. The Guild has managed to make itself part of the trend of propaganda “journalists” who are only upset by what India’s opposition parties do and have to be goaded into the mildest, mealy-mouthed objections to a series of substantial attacks on journalists by the government.

In its first election ever, well-known BJP propagandists were substantially defeated. One can only hope for a stronger stance and hopefully courage from this so-called representative body.

https://thewire.in/media/editors-guild-of-india-elections-seema-mustafa-sanjay-kapoor-shekhar- gupta-smita-prakash

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As further proof of government interference in the media is the latest “clarification” on FDI in the digital media space. Paranjoy Guha-Thakarta analyses and explains what’s going on.

https://www.newsclick.in/govt-plans-to-target-digital-news-media%3F

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal

 

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