The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology on Thursday said that Television Rating Points or TRPs can be “easily manipulated” and that it is not a robust method to measure viewership, reported the Hindustan Times.

The statement came after Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Secretary Amit Khare, Press Council of India Chairman Justice CK Prasad and other senior officials briefed the committee led by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on the matter of alleged manipulation of TRPs by three media organisations. More than 10 members, including Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Syed Zafar Islam and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and the Congress leader Karti Chidambaram, attended the meeting.

An unidentified official told the Hindustan Times that the panel said TRP measures were not in tune with the current technologies. “Due to converging technologies, it is difficult to have a regulatory framework,” the official said. “There is no uniformity of content and this required.”

The official added that the ministry agreed to the points made by the committee. They also agreed that amendments needed to be made to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995 and programming and advertising codes, reported Mint.

Another unidentified official said there were other challenges such as regulation of media and fake news that need to be addressed. The panel also discussed the formation of a “convergent media commission”, a body with sub-groups focused on each type of platform and their content using technological tools such as Artificial Intelligence and international best practices, to address the matter of manipulation of TRPs, according to The Times of India.

The committee also said the English news space, because of its minuscule size, was particularly susceptible to manipulation, while agreeing with the ministry that those held manipulating TRPs should be held accountable.

Apart from the ministry and the committee, the Broadcast Audience Research Council has also expressed its doubts about the TRP system. On Thursday, the council said it would pause weekly ratings for news channels for three months and review its measurement system.

 “In the light of the recent developments, BARC Board has proposed that it’s Technical Committee (Tech Comm) review and augment the current standards of measuring and reporting the data of niche genres, to improve their statistical robustness and to significantly hamper the potential attempts of infiltrating the panel homes.”

— — Broadcast Audience Research Council

TRP scam

The fake TRP racket was uncovered earlier this month when BARC filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers. Hansa Research is one of BARC’s vendors on engagement with panel homes, or “people’s meters”. Republic TV, Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were accused of TRP manipulation during the preliminary investigation.

On Wednesday, Republic TV’s Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanaswamy and Senior Executive Editor Abhishek Kapoor appeared before the crime branch of the Mumbai Police to record their statements in the case.

The Mumbai Crime Branch on Monday said that they had arrested a former Hansa Research employee named Vinay Tripathi from Uttar Pradesh. The officials said that he played a key role in the scam and had paid another accused to manipulate ratings. The police also recorded the statements of two senior officers from Hansa Research.

The police have also arrested the owners of Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi, Shirish Shetty and Narayan Sharma. They will remain police custody till October 16.

‘Republic TV Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani had appeared before the Mumbai for questioning in case on Sunday. The TV channel’s Chief Financial Officer Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram was supposed to appear before the police on Saturday, but he asked for a reschedule citing “personal commitments”.