News Broadcasters Association (NBA) yesterday expressed shock at seeing the alleged WhatsApp chats between former BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta and Arnab Goswami, Managing Editor, ARG Outlier Media. NBA said that the chats established collusion between the two in manipulating ratings to garner viewership for Republic TV month after month by reducing ratings of other channels to give Republic TV an unfair advantage.
NBA further said that the WhatsApp messages apart from manipulation of ratings reflected power play with messages referring to PMO, appointment of Secretaries, Cabinet reshuffle and the workings of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).
“This only confirms the many and continuous allegations made by NBA in the last 4 years that ratings were being manipulated by a non-NBA member broadcaster in connivance with BARC’s top management officials,” said NBA in a media release.
NBA has asked for the suspension of Republic TV’s IBF membership with immediate effect till the case related to manipulation of ratings is pending in the court while stating that the channel should be kept out of BARC rating system till final court order given the immense damage it has done to the reputation of the broadcasting industry.
“NBA has already conveyed to BARC that ratings are unreliable as far as we can see and should continue to be suspended in light of the recent revelations which shows the arbitrary nature of functioning at BARC. It shows that there are no checks and balances and the ability of a few within BARC to easily change the ratings as they deemed fit, making the system subjective to the whims and fancy of the management versus being an objective transparent system. The Oversight Committee with no representation of broadcasters and just consultants paid by BARC is an eye wash to show autonomy. NBA strongly demands that action should be taken by BARC against these dubious actors, legal and police action should also be taken against those who are responsible for ruining the credibility of BARC and threaten to damage the credibility of the news broadcast business have hitherto gone about their business without any consequences or fear thereof,” added NBA in its media release.
NBA further noted that BARC had sat on the forensic report for several months that brought light to the manipulations highlighting the systematic lack of transparency that has prevailed since the inception of BARC.
“Not only did BARC not share the data with NBA on grounds of confidentiality, no action was taken against the erring broadcaster, no penalty and no Discom proceedings were initiated. In fact, even after the new management took charge, wide scale manipulation has continued,” added NBA in its media release.
NBA has called on BARC to make a clear statement on the veracity of its ratings in the period during the audit along with an audit of the Hindi News genre while explaining the concrete steps taken by BARC in the last three months to secure the data. NBA has called on BARC to expunge the data of the erring broadcaster and restate the real position of rankings of all news channels from the beginning.
NBA has further asked for transparency to the process and creation of a system whereby any changes to the impacts the news ecosystem is done only after due consultation with a BARC sub-committee of NBA nominees. NBA has asked for the ratings of news channels to remain suspended till the time all the details of such actions taken by BARC is shared with the stakeholders while explaining what penal actions provided for in the BARC constitution against broadcasters who have indulged in the manipulation of ratings of this magnitude and what action it will take in the current case.
“NBA’s Board also wants to place on record that the corrupt data released month after month has not only led to reputation loss but has also caused huge financial losses to news broadcasters for which BARC is duty bound to give an explanation,” added NBA in its final remark.