Explained: TRP and its loopholes

The TRP or Target Rating Point is the metric used by the marketing and advertising agencies to evaluate this viewership.

Updated - November 28, 2021 01:38 pm IST

Published - October 08, 2020 08:42 pm IST - New Delhi:

Photo for representational purpose only.

Photo for representational purpose only.


What is a TRP?

In simple terms, anyone who watches television for more than a minute is considered a viewer. A viewer can be as young as a two-year-old. The TRP or Target Rating Point is the metric used by the marketing and advertising agencies to evaluate this viewership. In India, the TRP is recorded by the Broadcast Audience Research Council using Bar-O-Meters that are installed in televisions in selected households. As on date, the BARC has installed these meters in 44,000 households across the country. Audio watermarks are embedded in video content prior to broadcast. These watermarks are not audible to the human ear, but can easily be detected and decoded using dedicated hardware and software. As viewing details are recorded by the Bar-O-Meters, so are the watermarks.


How are the households selected?

Selection of households where Bar-O-Meters are installed is a two-stage process. The first step is the Establishment Survey, a large-scale face-to-face survey of a sample of approximately 3 lakh households from the target population. This is done annually. Out of these, the households which will have Bar-O-Meters or what the BARC calls the Recruitment Sample are randomly selected. The fieldwork to recruit households is not done directly by BARC. The BARC on its website has said that the viewing behaviour of panel homes is reported to BARC India daily. Coincidental checks either physically or telephonically are done regularly. Certain suspicious outliers are also checked directly by BARC India. “BARC India also involves a separate vigilance agency to check on outliers that it considers highly suspicious,” the website says. And as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, these households rotate every year. This rotation is in such a manner that older panel homes are removed first while maintaining the representativeness of the panel. The rotation is conducted in a staggered manner by rotating panel homes every month. The Ministry guidelines further say that the secrecy and privacy of the panel homes must be maintained, and asked the BARC to follow a voluntary code of conduct.

What are the loopholes in the process?

The Mumbai police claimed that households were being paid to manipulate the TRP.

“As in all our previous cases of suspected panel homes intrusions, BARC India continues to follow its established vigilance and disciplinary guidelines. BARC remains steadfastly true to its purpose to accurately and faithfully report ‘What India Watches’. BARC India appreciates the efforts of the Mumbai Police and will provide the support asked of it,” the BARC India spokesperson said.

Several doubts have been raised on many previous occasions about the working of the TRP. On Wednesday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had said that the TRP process needs a rethink and attacked what he called “TRP Journalism”. Speaking at an event organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh newsletter Panchajanya , Mr. Javadekar said, “Because we believe in self-regulation, I urge media companies to work out a way for regulating their content. The government has faith in the media and the freedom of the press, but the media should work out a way to ensure how its freedom is ensured.” Public broadcaster Doordarshan has time and again said that TRP did not reflect the actual viewership.

As per several reports, about 70% of the revenue for television channels comes from advertising and only 30% from subscription. Many channels have argued that the subscription rates, which are controlled by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), should be raised so that TV channels are not forced to serve the lowest common denominator.

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