Home / News / India /  Fake TRP case spooks brands

Key advertisers and media agencies say they are closely tracking and re-evaluating media spends on television news channels accused of tampering with television rating points (TRPs), rumour-mongering and spreading hate.

The move comes after the Mumbai Police on Thursday said its probe into a complaint by TV viewership measurement agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) had unearthed a racket of TRP-fixing by some channels, including news broadcaster Republic TV.

Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh told a press conference that these channels were paying some households money to keep these channels switched on. These are households where viewership monitoring meters have been installed.

The alleged scam has made advertisers worried about advertising on news channels that have been under the scanner.

Although Parle Products, the maker of Parle G biscuits, has not been active on TV due to covid, its senior category head Krishnarao Buddha said the company will not advertise on news channels that broadcast 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 channels promoting aggression and toxicity are not the kind the company wants to put money into as it does not favour its target consumer.

Industrialist and Bajaj Auto managing director 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 festival season, the alleged ratings scam and toxic content seem to be inhibiting advertiser spending on television news channels in spite of their 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," a media buyer said on condition of anonymity.

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 the scale and extent of the tampering are clearly identified," said a senior executive at another media agency. According to a senior executive in an automobile manufacturing company, advertisements won’t be cut merely because of allegations—the decision to advertise on a channel depends on the eyeballs it draws.

“If Republic is proven guilty of TRP manipulation... 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, “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," he said.

Calling the allegations false, Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami said the Mumbai police commissioner was coming after them because they had questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case and added that the channel will file a criminal defamation case against him. “This kind of targeting only strengthens the resolve of everyone at Republic TV to push for the truth even harder. Param Bir Singh stands completely exposed today since BARC has not mentioned Republic in any single complaint," Goswami tweeted.

Suneera Tandon and Malyaban Ghosh contributed to this story.

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