The Bombay High Court has set aside an order passed by designated television ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council, or BARC India, that imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on TV Today network for alleged “viewership malpractice” and violation of the council’s code of conduct, PTI reported on Saturday.
The ratings agency imposed a fine on TV Today – that owns news channel India Today – on July 31, based on a show-cause notice it issued to the media group. BARC had alleged that there was a “significant abnormal jump” in the daily average reach of its channel without any distribution improvement. The agency had suspected this to be a result of rigging ratings by influencing panel households, according to The Indian Express.
Based on this order, the Bombay High Court had last month directed the network to deposit the fine amount to the court registry if it wanted BARC to not take any coercive action against them. TV Today had challenged the disciplinary action against the group. The BARC lawyers, in turn, had raised preliminary objection and said that the plea was not maintainable before the writ jurisdiction of the High Court.
A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav on November 5 quashed and set aside the July 31 order of the BARC’s Disciplinary Council after the ratings agency told the court that it was ready to give the company a fresh hearing. The media group also expressed its willingness to appear before the council once again.
Senior Counsel Veerendra Tulzapurkar, along with advocates Abhinav Chandrachud, Munaf Virjee and Akash Agarwal for the petitioner, argued that BARC’s Disciplinary Council did not have appropriate quorum when the order was passed and therefore, it needed to be set aside.
Senior advocate Gopal Jain and advocate Ashish Kamat for BARC, meanwhile, told the court that there is a new Code of Conduct for “Redressing Viewership Malpractices” and that the BARC was not averse to giving fresh hearing to the TV Today Network.
“As a consequence of this consensus, the petition is disposed of by quashing and setting aside the impugned order and that the petitioner will appear before the Disciplinary Council on the date assigned,” the bench said in its order. “The petitioner is permitted to withdraw the amount of Rs 5,00,000 stated to be deposited in the Registry of this Court.”
BARC India is a joint industry company founded by stakeholder bodies that represent broadcasters, advertisers, and media agencies. The council uses BAR-O-Meters, or “people’s metres”, that have been installed in over 45,000 households for tracking TRPs. The empanelled households are classified into 12 categories, covering over 80 crore people.
The members of these households are given separate viewer IDs, which they are required to put on while watching television. This helps BARC to monitor which channels they watch and the duration for the same.