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Ahead of the festive season, the ratings scam and toxic content seems to be jeopardising advertiser spends on news TV which has high reach
Ahead of the festive season, the ratings scam and toxic content seems to be jeopardising advertiser spends on news TV which has high reach

Advertisers wary as TRP scam hits TV channels ahead of festive season

  • Mumbai Police Commissioner earlier said Republic, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema have been tampering with TRPs
  • The current scam has only made advertisers more worried about putting media money on news channels

Key advertisers and media agencies said they are closely tracking and revaluating media spends on television, especially, news channels which have been accused of tampering with television rating points (TRPs) as well as spewing hate and rumour mongering.

On Thursday, after investigating a complaint by the TV viewership measurement agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the Mumbai Police unearthed a racket of TRP manipulation by some channels including news broadcaster Republic TV.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh at a press conference said Republic, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema have been tampering with TRPs by paying households where viewership monitoring meters have been placed.

The current scam has only made advertisers more worried about putting media money on news channels which have been under the scanner for hate mongering.

Although Parle Products, the maker of Parle G biscuits has not been active on TV due to covid, but its senior category head Krishnarao Buddha said that the company will not advertise on news channels that promote toxic content.

“We are exploring possibilities wherein other advertisers can come together and sort of put a restraint on their advertising spends on news channels, so that there is some sort of a clear signal to all the news channels, that they better change their content," Buddha said.

He said that channels promoting aggression and toxicity are not channels the company will put money behind as it does not favour its target consumer.

Industrialist and managing director of Bajaj Auto, Rajiv Bajaj told CNBC TV18 on Thursday that his company has blacklisted three channels. “A strong brand is a foundation on which you build a strong business. At the end of the day the purpose of a strong business is to also contribute to the society… Our brand has never associated with anything we feel is a source of toxicity in the society," Bajaj said.

Ahead of the festive season, the ratings scam and toxic content seems to be jeopardising advertiser spends on news TV which has high reach.

"We've been receiving multiple inquiries from clients on the TRP issue. We are keeping a close watch on how things evolve and whether we need to re-evaluate spends on these channels," said a media buyer on condition of anonymity.

While advertising has not immediately ceased on these channels, advertisers are seeking clarity and direction from BARC on the issue. "Media spends on the said channels are continuing as planned till the inquiry is completed and scale and extent of tampering is clearly identified. We will also wait for a clear direction from BARC about the impact and scale of TRP related irregularities," said a senior executive at another media agency.

Though automakers are among the largest advertisers on television news channels, not many of them are willing to pull out or reduce advertising immediately.

According to a senior executive in an automobile manufacturing company, advertisements won’t be reduced because of some allegation. A company’s decision to advertise on a channel depends on the eyeballs it gathers on the platform.

“If Republic is proven guilty of TRP manipulation which can be construed as fraud, automakers will move onto the next best channel for sure but for that the channel needs to be convicted. As of now nothing will change," said the executive requesting anonymity.

Another Auto sector executive said that manufacturers don’t want to court controversy at this time when festival seasons sales could be affected.

“Reducing ads on one channel because of an unproven allegation might lead to bad press for the company. No one would want to risk that. Also, advertising agencies of auto companies have an idea of which channel gets most eyeballs and no one depends on BARC ratings alone. If proven guilty, companies will definitely take a stand but not before that," he added.

(Suneera Tandon and Malyaban Ghosh contributed to this story)

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