India News ratings suspension; BARC India reacts with confidence


24 Mar 2016
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Describing the suspension of India News ratings by BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council India) as ‘arbitrary and illegal’ by an order dated 6 December, 2016, the Bombay High Court stayed the suspension of BARC ratings of India News. The court has stated that the suspension and subsequent communication to all the subscribers has been prima-facie seen as a reputation maligning action, a press release from India News stated.
Earlier, BARC had temporarily suspended ‘India News’ ratings for a period of four weeks. In a statement, following the court order India News CEO Varun Kohli said, "India News is a credible news channel in the broadcasting business in the country and has grown consistently in the last four years both in the times of BARC ratings and TAM ratings, the predecessor of BARC. As a news channel, we uphold strong journalistic values and have established ourselves as a trustworthy and responsible media house in the country and have enjoyed unconditional support from all the stakeholders over the years. We are very confident that all the stakeholders and our well-wishers will continue to support us as they have done till now and we wish to work more closely with one and all."
Reacting to the judgement, BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta said: "The honourable court has given an ad-interim order and we have no comment as the matter is still sub judice. We are confident about what we have done. We will continue to act as per our board and government guidelines, with the objective of providing the Indian broadcast industry with an accurate, robust and reliable television audience measurement system."
Iqbal Chagla, Senior Advocate, along with Sharan]agtiani, Subhashjha, Siddharth Bambha, Shyam D. Nandan, and Yash Wardhan Tiwari, instructed by M/s. Law Global, appeared for the plaintiff (India News). Dinyar Madon, Senior Advocate, along with Yashesh Kamdar, Anand Desai, C. Mitra, Aneesha Jacob and Manasi Vyas, instructed by M/s. DSK Legal, appeared for the defendant (BARC India).
According to the judgement, the Plaintiffs have also taken out Notice of Motion seeking interim stay with regard to the operation, execution, implementation and/or effect of the Order of Suspension dated 24 November, 2016.
The plaintiffs have further prayed that the data and ratings it is entitled to receive in terms of the End User License Agreement (EULA) dated 24 April, 2015, executed by and between the plaintiff and the defendant, be made available to the plaintiffs. The present application is made by the Plaintiff for urgent ad-interim reliefs, according to the judgement.
The defendant had issued an email dated 24 November, 2016, addressed to all the subscribers of the defendant's services, inter alia, stating that the ratings of the said channel had been suspended for a period of four weeks for 'suspected mala fide practices.' The defendant has also released the information regarding the suspension to the media as well. The defendant had noted the abnormal and unjustified high TRPs of the plaintiff's channel during the period of week 35-2016 to 44- 2016. However, the defendant had not earlier disclosed the spiked TRP to the plaintiff, in order to prevent the channel from misusing the said data/TRP to increase its revenue with the advertisers.
According to the judgement, two highlights of the presentation are:
(i) the increase in viewership of the plaintiff's channel is abnormally higher than similar channels; and
(ii) after the defendant issued the show-cause notice, the viewership stabilised, and then actually went down after the government announced demonetisation of certain currency notes on 8 November, 2016, while other similar channels' viewership increased because of the significant news.
According to the judgement, additional TRP point can increase advertising rates and revenues by up to about Rs. 4 - 6 crore for a period of 4-8 weeks. Thus, manipulation of the viewership by the plaintiff consequently leads to additional TRPs which can increase their advertising revenues substantially and reduce revenues of other channels. Thus, many other news channels will suffer if any relief is granted in this suit.

'Prima-facie reputation maligning': HC stays India News ratings suspension; BARC India reacts with confidence | Indian Television Dot Com
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