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Topic in News

What is a TRP Scam?

Why in the news?

  • The recent observations of the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the functioning of media point towards an urgent need of redefining the electronic media in accordance with the constitutional values, freedom of media, individual rights, and right to privacy.

Scam

  • The Mumbai police claimed to have busted a ‘major racket’ which was “fraudulently involved in manipulating Television Rating Points (TRP)” of TV channels, including Republic TV. Four persons have been arrested in the case.
  • Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh said so far, three channels including Republic, Fakt Marathi, and Box Cinema were found to be indulging in such malpractices.
  • Singh said that barometers to measure TRP’s are kept at several undisclosed houses across the country, based on which the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) measures TRPs of channels.
  • BARC, which functions under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has installed approximately 30,000 barometers in various parts of the country based on which it awards ratings to various TV channels. Based on these ratings, advertisers pay for their advertisements.

Social Media and Deepening of Democracy

  • Aiding C-Governance:Social media has led to the emergence of citizen-led governance (C–governance) in India.
    • Social media platforms help to create awareness from one another to a million and be united for any social cause. In the process, the existence of social media can nudge citizens to seek solutions. Also for C-governance, people need to have information and be able to convey it to others. Social media platforms make that ton easier.
    • Given this, social media is gradually being accepted as the fifth estate of democracy.
  • The democratization of Expression:Social media has made Indian politics more inclusive by allowing citizens, who were traditionally excluded from politics due to geography and demography, to gain direct entry into the political process.
    • It has also allowed for a diversity of viewpoints and public engagement on an unprecedented scale.
  • An instrument for Bringing Behavioural Change:Use of social media for policy crowdsourcing and publicity is evident in the success of pan-India campaigns such as Swacch Bharat Abhiyan and the recently-launched Fit India Movement.
  • Making political communication people-centric:Social media has been increasingly used by Indian political actors for routine political communication between elections to provide unmediated and direct communication to connect citizenry.
    • Also, social media has changed the power of political messaging and has moved away from the mass media model and places it firmly into peer-to-peer, public discourse.

Role of media

  • Media plays a crucial role in shaping a healthy democracy. It is the backbone of a democracy. Media makes us aware of various social, political, and economical activities happening around the world. It is like a mirror, which shows us or strives to show us the bare truth and harsh realities of life.
  • The media has undoubtedly evolved and become more active over the years. It is the media only who reminds politicians about their unfulfilled promises at the time of elections. T.V news channels’ excessive coverage during elections helps people, especially illiterates, in electing the right person to power.
  • This reminder compels politicians to be up to their promises to remain in power.
  • Television and radio have made a significant achievement in educating rural illiterate masses in making them aware of all the events in their language. Coverage of exploitative malpractices of village heads and moneylenders has helped in taking stringent actions against them by attracting government attention.
  • The media also exposes loopholes in the democratic system, which ultimately helps the government in filling the vacuums of loopholes and making a system more accountable, responsive, and citizen-friendly. A democracy without media is like a vehicle without wheels.
  • In the age of information technology, we are bombarded with information. We get the pulse of the world events with just a click of a mouse. The flow of information has increased manifolds. The perfect blend of technology and human resources (journalist) has not left a single stone unturned in unearthing rampant corruption in politics and society. We all are well aware of what Tehelka did. Thanks to technology that has brought a kind of revolution in journalism.
  • Diversion of media from their core democratic responsibilities is inevitable as its existence depends upon high ratings of TRP.
  • In recent times, the electronic media showing their programs in principle with truth, information, logical debating, and aiming to create awareness receive a low rating of TRP which subsequently leads to huge financial loss.
  • Therefore, locating space for autonomy and freedom appears like an outrageous practice for the media as its existence and survival always depend upon corporate and business entities.

Aggressive Journalism

  • Aggressive journalism evolved as an offshoot of post-globalization when electronic media began live telecasting of news in 24-hours format. Initially, the media remained engaged in covering the news round the clock to create awareness among viewers. But, with the spike in numbers of private channels after 2000, a new pattern of attracting the viewers towards their channel by spreading the news quickly emerged. Sensationalised stories, media trials became common on channels.
  • Such practices in media are glorified as aggressive journalism on account of free media enshrined in the Constitution of India as freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 1 (a), which deals with ‘Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.
  • Although, at the same time, freedom of media is restricted under Article 19 (2) in case of issues related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense.
  • A few of such cases where persons were declared as guilty by the media even before the actual trial began to include the Jessica Lal case (2010),  Priyadarshini Mattoo case (2006) and Bijal Joshi rape case (2005), Aarushi Talwar’s Murder (2013), and the very recent media trial of Rhea Chakraborty, etc. Though, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Sahara vs. SEBI (2012) strongly observed that such trials by the media are likely to adversely affect the reputation of the judiciary and judicial proceedings adversely. While on one hand, a large number of media editorial teams have been covering issues keeping high TRP in mind, on the other hand, issues of national interest and societal importance do not find enough time on TV news channels as even the audience chooses news of sensation before news of sense.

Way Ahead

  • Ideally, the media should be impartial and free from propaganda mechanisms. It should provide a balanced account to the people. Media educates and keeps the public informed about the national and international political and other human realities taking place in everyday life. The purpose of the media is to highlight the trouble spots in society and press the government and public to devise suitable mechanisms to eliminate those troubles.
  • However, the potential of media as a force multiplier and a weapon of war must be realized. Failure to recognize and counter the enemy’s usage of media could lead to unprecedented military and national failures. It must be realized that today decisions are no longer based on events but on how the events are presented.
  • Though India is not a surveillance state and there must not be any kind of illegal and unconstitutional check on the freedom of media provided that media sticks to the core principles like truth, accuracy, transparency, independence, fairness, and impartiality.
  • At the same time, there must be the professional strengthening of the institutional and regulatory framework, namely the Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association (NBA), PIB, etc. to bring Indian news media at the forefront of the world ranking. Therefore, it’s high time for Indian media to prioritize truth and professionalism over TRP while covering the issue.