NBF writes to I&B minister against a group of broadcasters seeking to suspend news genre ratings


MUMBAI : The News Broadcasters Federation (NBF), a lobby group of national and regional news broadcasters that collectively represents over 300 TV news channels, has addressed a letter to Anurag Thakur, the Minister of Information & Broadcasting, highlighting its members’ apprehensions regarding the suspension of weekly ratings for the news genre.

The letter, a copy of which was accessed by Mint, alleges that a group of broadcasters is making attempts to get the news channels’ ratings suspended. While the letter has not named any news channel or network, it pointed out that news ratings are the “lifeline” of honest news organisations whose existence and sustenance are measured and delivered based on the performance of their weekly ratings by their viewers across India.

“It has come to our collective attention that there is a group of broadcasters with proven monopolistic interests, who are making attempts to impede the ongoing transparent process of publishing weekly ratings for the news genre. We write to you, with severe concern, to request that there is no disruption in the publishing of ratings for the news genre as disseminated by the rating agency BARC,” reads the letter signed by R Jai Krishna, secretary-general, NBF.

The letter further points out that rating disruption will not only impact news operations but will also impact the future and the sustenance of a free and vibrant broadcast media.

“We believe that news broadcasters must have a right to earn their revenues through the honest competitive contest within the genre — the result of which is declared solely on the ratings published by BARC every week. Stoppage of BARC ratings only for the news genre would impact our operations which, in turn, will have a cascading impact on the livelihoods of the employees’ part of our channels which span across the length and breadth of the country, and function across languages,” the letter said.

The five-page letter also points out that the BARC rating is the only currency for advertisers to allocate their advertising budget to various genres and channels and if ratings of only news genres are stopped, and ratings of 95% of the TV universe comprising all other genres are released, their advertisers’ trust and preference for news genres will take a hit, which in turn will reduce the allocation of budgets to the news genre as a whole.

Mint has learned that a few members of the other lobby group of the news broadcasters — the News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) — are pushing for the suspension of the news genre’s ratings. NBDA’s members include national broadcasters like Reliance Industries-owned TV18 Broadcast, Times Network, TV Today Network, India TV, ABP News and Zee News.

However, informed sources have told Mint that not all members of the NBDA are in favour of a blackout of the ratings and only a few players, have been pushing for it.

“On 4 August, a vote was taken in the same regard, in which ABP Group, TV Today, India TV and a couple of more networks supported the suspension of ratings, while TV18, Times Network, Eenadu Television and Matrubhumi Group voted against it,” said one senior broadcaster.

Sources in BARC have told Mint that the measurement body has not taken any call on the suspension of ratings, and it will only do so if directed by the government.

The NBF letter further added, “It is worthwhile to point out that the stoppage of news ratings helps only a select few news broadcasters’ interests, as it happened in the past when in 2021, without any logic and rationale, news ratings were suspended… These legacy brands will have an unfair advantage if ratings stall. Because in such a scenario, advertisers will continue to prefer legacy brands based on historical experience. And the newly emerging leaders will be denied a fair chance to earn their dividends.”

It said that the continuity of ratings remains in the best interest of the news industry, the public, and for the continuance of a free and fair market.

“A disruption of ratings will plunge our industry into financial distress, impact lakhs of journalists, endorse a system bias against news organizations, and promote monopolistic interests whose primary revenues are not from the public service of delivering the news to the people of India. We humbly seek your intervention to ensure that ratings, which is the only determinant of advertising and revenue in our industry, is not disrupted and our genre is not singularly acted against,” it said.

The news broadcasters are also concerned with the timing of the request, as the general elections are around the corner, which is crucial for any news organization’s business goals and sustenance.


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Updated: 09 Aug 2023, 09:56 PM IST

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