Another day, another UPA scam
All Television channels make money through getting good Television Rating Points (TRP) for its programmes to bag advertising. Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) is the premier rating agency in this TRP granting business. An investigation by PGurus shows that during the fag end of UPA Government in January 2014, during Manish Tewari’s tenure in Information and Broadcasting (I & B) Ministry, the rules were fabricated to favour BARC to get a monopoly in the TV channel rating business ranging up to Rs.70,000 crore per year.
What could be termed as a big fraud, is that the Policy Guidelines exempted BARC. Due to this BARC is fully controlled by TV channels and the majority stake is held by Star TV. So where is the independence offered by UPA Government’s Cabinet decision on January 9, 2014, on new “Policy Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies in India”?
The Congress party controlled UPA Cabinet on January 9, 2014, passed a Cabinet decision to regulate the TV channel rating agencies by announcing a new policy. This policy was the outcome of the regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendations. Actually, a close reading of the policy formulated in this regard exposes that the I & B Ministry had manipulated the guidelines to favour BARC, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s Star Group. After the exit of murder and corruption cases accused Peter Mukerjea in 2005, Murdoch’s Star TV’s India operations were handled by TV business expert Uday Shankar.
In the 28 page “Policy Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies in India”, the I&B Ministry cleverly put two lines to favour Star Group controlled BARC. The Policy Guidelines envisages all sorts of regulations to streamline the TV rating business in India by ensuring independence to the rating agencies for TV programmes. The main rule was that TV channel or adverting company or its controlling stakeholder should not be part of the TV rating agency.
What could be termed as a big fraud, is that the Policy Guidelines exempted BARC. Due to this BARC is fully controlled by TV channels and the majority stake is held by Star TV. So where is the independence offered by UPA Government’s Cabinet decision on January 9, 2014, on new “Policy Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies in India”? Claiming to bring new policy guidelines to maintain independence in the Rs.70,000 crore per year money-spinning TV rating business and allowing BARC to get an exemption from these new Policy Guidelines? One is reminded of Orwell’s quote, “All are equal but some are more equal!”
After favouring BARC by giving exemption from Policy Guidelines, the I&B, in January 2014, allowed foreign players to enter into India’s TV rating business. Why foreign companies to monitor who watches which TV programme in India? Another avenue to make money for the ever hungry tainted Finance Minister P Chidambaram through his usual practice of violating Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) guidelines. Through this UPA’s government’s blessing, the World’s biggest multinational group WPP, based in London also became a shareholder of BARC.
Who is WPP?
WPP was a firm established in the UK in the early 70s. WPP means Wire and Plastic Products and this firm slowly turned into advertising and lobbying and healthcare activities and is now operating in many countries. WPP also owns the biggest advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.
In what must be a new record to bend laws to suit vested interests, the UPA manipulated the TRAI recommendation for independent TV rating agency to a firm with full TV channel owners and advertising firm owners. As per the BARC business model, those channels that wanted to get their TRPs listed must pay an annual fee of one percent of their revenue. As per the analysis of the shareholding pattern, the BARC is mainly controlled by Murdoch’s STAR TV group, handled in India by Uday Shankar. The promoters of BARC are Indian Society for Advertisers, Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), mainly controlled by Star Group and Advertising Agencies Association of India. Apart from Star TV, Reliance Industries controlled Viacom 18 Media, Eenadu TV and Zee TV Group representatives are also in the board. Godrej and Procter and Gamble are also on the Board of Directors. A representative of the public broadcaster Prasar Bharti also in this totally private barons controlled Board for namesake along with the multinational giant advertiser and lobbyist – public relation firm WPP. What can Prasar Bharti representative do in this totally TV barons-controlled mechanism?
This is one of the biggest sham done by the I&B Ministry in UPA regime in its fag end by killing the TRAI recommendation envisaging independence in TV rating business. In a nutshell, BARC is another classic case of conflict of interest. It is high time the Government rectified the manipulated policy guidelines by UPA regime and stop this organised loot and manipulation by the TV channel giants who are fooling people by giving false Television Ratings to their own members and ensure that a professional independent television rating agency is created in India.
PGurus in coming days will come out with further reports on the dubious working style of BARC in creating manipulated TV ratings.