NBF moves govt over attempt to suspend news genre ratings


The News Broadcasters Federation, which represents over 300 national and regional TV news channels, has sent a letter to information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur, expressing concerns over the suspension of weekly news ratings.

In the letter, the federation alleged that certain broadcasters are trying to suspend news channel ratings. Although the NBF did not name any channel or network, it said ratings are the lifeline for honest news media organizations. The ratings determine their presence and sustenance, reflecting their performance as evaluated by viewers across India, it said.

“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 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 rating agency BARC.” The letter is signed by R. Jai Krishna, secretary general of NBF.

The letter said rating disruptions will not only impact news operations, but will also impact the future and the sustenance of India’s vibrant and free 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 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’ of channels which span the length and breadth of the country, and function across languages.”

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

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, 11:44 PM IST

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