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‘Press freedom subverted’: NBF writes to I&B minister over BARC ‘skewing final data’ with ‘landing page’ views

The freedom of the press is being “subverted” due to the Broadcast Audience Research Council’s failure to address the issue of “landing pages” being included in viewership data, according to a June 1 letter from the News Broadcasters Federation to I&B minister Anurag Thakur.

The landing page is the channel you see on your TV when you switch on your set-top box. The News Broadcasters Federation is a group of news channels led by Republic TV.

The letter said BARC had been approached multiple times over its “problematic matter of landing pages being measured by viewership rating agency as true viewership”.

The letter flagged five issues: that landing pages are a “restrictive trade practice”; they can be “bought at a price” to “artificially amplify” viewership data of some channels; the practice counters the government’s efforts to “democratise” the news media; and it subverts the freedom the press through the “validation of monopolistic practices”.

Finally, the letter alleged BARC had the capability to fix this issue but was not doing so.

“In the past, BARC has included included unfiltered outliers data from landing page for its ratings data, but had later decided to exclude it from viewership,” the letter said. “Therefore, it is clear that BARC has both the ability and the precedent of filtering out landing page data while calculating viewership, but is still not doing so. ln fact, in the past, BARC had itself termed the use of landing pages as a ‘false exaggeration’ of viewership.”

The letter urged Thakur to “urgently intervene in light of BARC’s failure to address the present situation”.

BARC had resumed its news ratings in March following a 17-month hiatus, purportedly to “review and augment” its processes when the Mumbai police unearthed a “TRP scam”. Read Newslaundry’s report on how, when the ratings resumed, TV9 Bharatvarsh and its wall-to-wall coverage of the Ukraine war found itself at the top. AP Direct

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