Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Rating Game

Another weekend and we have another Friday blogbuster from RajdeepSardesai. This time it’s about the plight of Irom Sharmila and her 11-year old fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). This time, his lament is why Anna Hazare got all the attention and Sharmila didn’t. I usually help Rajdeep rehash his articles, because he's a favourite of mine, but this time I will let it pass. Though there are many holes in his latest article I am for anything that can help Sharmila end her fast and fight for her cause in a different manner. Right now, it’s the battle of TRPs that the media is engaged in with advertisers that is not on front pages or on our screens.

Okay, this was a headline on a news channel today morning (either Headlines Today or CNN-IBN) ‘Kareena Kapoor with all three Khans in a row’. Would any bright intellectual ever explain to me what exactly that is supposed to mean? Why in heavens are news channels more and more like ZoomTV or ImagineTV? It appears the only thing that drives news channels is a terror strike, an Anna type movement or fierce political battles. Their main programming is made up of cricket, Bollywood, cheap thrills, cars and gadgets, Hindu-bashing and if after all that, they find some time, there is news. And they'd even like to think they are the ones mostly making it. On most channels there are no serious documentaries or any serious investigations. The now extinct ‘News of the world’ and that dead dodo ‘Illustrated Weekly’ would be proud of our news channels any day. Kushwant Singh would applaud what our news channels have become. Mindless banter by the fair and lovely manly crowd of Kanwal, Rajdeep, Arnab and the extinct Prannoy! Oh, that includes the ladies too! This is where Rajdeep Sardesai came in lately. TRPs!

Television Audience Measurement (TAM) releases TRPs every week. Now, Rajdeep leads the chorus that wants them to release the ratings monthly and not weekly while advertisers want it weekly, as it currently is. Wait, advertisers even ask: why not every day? The ratings for TV channels are given in time bands from morning till prime time. In case you haven’t looked at the ratings, I recommend you just take a casual look. Mind you, the TAM ratings aren’t released publicly but only to members, who in turn use it to claim superiority in one segment or the other. You might get to see those TRPs as they get slightly dated and not before. As ordinary viewers you and I are not normally concerned about these ratings but for TV channels and advertisers these are their Bibles and Korans. They swear, live and die by it, after they have paid for it.

The recent Anna Hazare movement had TimesNow taking up the cause against govt so strongly that it had other channels playing catch-up. TimesNow took pole position like Demi Moore in Striptease, sort of! Now, Rajdeep and others contend that the weekly ratings negatively affect content on TV. Oh yeah? So if your news content is bad you throw up a Kareena Kapoor and a Khan because the ratings are bad? Yes, indeed! That is pretty much the strategy of all news channels. Saas Bahu, Bhoot Pret, Cuckoo on the couch, Flashback Bollywood, Total Recall – all these are supposed to be worthy of news channels?

Have you noticed how news channels are getting more and more breathless in their coverage of the news? How anchors tend to shout rather than speak? How every bit of news, no matter how mundane, is deemed worthy of a Breaking News headline? And how sensation is increasingly replacing the sort of thing that used to be regarded as news?” That’s not me. That is one time Radiagate hero Vir Sanghvi writing on his website Counterpoint. I am tempted to ask Vir Sanghvi what he did when he used to be on TV. At best I could call his shows gentle massaging while you snoozed. And I am being kind really. But let it be!

Let’s hear some more from Vir Sanghvi: Currently, the news channels and the advertising industry are locked in a fierce battle over ratings. The news channels say that the current system in which ratings are declared every week is bad. It should be replaced by a system where such ratings are announced only once a month. Nonsense, say advertisers. We are in the business of spending the money our clients give us wisely. We need information that is accurate and up-to-date. In an ideal world, we would like ratings that are instantaneous. At the very least we would prefer the current system of weekly ratings that allows us to judge how well a show is doing. Why should we have to wait a month to find this out?

Let me not bore you with Vir Sanghvi. The larger principle is pretty clear. In the recent discussions about a CAG report damning Air India, every channel had conducted an inquisition on Praful Patel with severe questioning. Not one, I repeat not one channel dared mention the other report on the Reliance scam relating to the KG Basin scam. Why would they? Just as ordinary citizens that they accuse of politician-bashing,  the news channels derive the same TRPs by politician-bashing. After all why would they bite the hand that feeds them? Right? And then, would an interview or screwing some lame executive from Reliance get them the same TRP? In both cases, Praful Patel and Reliance, the end result would have been denial, denial, denial! Given that end result in mind who would the channels pimp with? That’s simply a business decision and not a ‘news’ decision’! That’s the rating game.

Reliance, of course, is a stake holder in some of the news channels. Reliance is also a major advertiser on all the channels in India. So the crimes of Reliance can pass, but Praful Patel, like other politicians, is fair game for our news channels. Anna Hazare knew that pretty well. So, when Rajdeep Sardesai wonders why Irom Sharmila doesn’t get the same media attention he makes the same mistake most journalistic cub idiots make. Corruption is more identifiable with politicians than with the army. That is why the rating game prevents news channels from the issues of Irom Sharmila. The news channels are as corrupt as the political class. Try and figure this – IndiaTV for all the ridicule that is heaped on it for its ‘Bhooth preth, Karma, Punar Jamn’ stories could still be business-wise the most profitable one. If your game is getting eyeballs, real news and truth is not about catching the criminals by their balls. I doubt anyone would pay to see Rajdeep Sardesai in the nude on TV, but hey, make no mistake, if Poonam Pandey makes that announcement - that would break a lot of eyeballs wouldn't it?

So it’s neither about truth nor about news, it is just about the rating game. Our news channels just want to ensure that they remain sexy and attractive for their paymasters. Where do we, the viewers, come in? Go figure!


  1. The author has hit the nail on his head but no doubt the latter will repeat the same for he must survive? Scam, Corruption, bribe name anything, once attributed after some fame, then they will be ignored considering how many are living their eke out geometry. I hate reliance for, its soaring and reaching the present slot are all by hook or crook. Please read below and come to the conclusion for analogy sake:partI

    This has reference to my broad band connection bearing No9347355114. When I was transferred from Kothagudem to Tirupathy, I went to your Paloncha outlet and paid Rs 750 towards full and final settlement which they transcribed on the receipt vide their receipt No 53455 dated 26-11-2009. Subsequently, I got some bill with my address not related to me by mail and there was customer service call and I narrated the whole story and when I explained that your outlet wallas sold my identity to an addresswala then incorporated and being a government employee, there is an apprehension should he used it illegally. Therefore, your customer care end satisfied and assured me that she would see the connection terminated immediately and waive the balance from the date of my surrender i.e. 26-11-2009.

    I hoped that your end settled the matter once for all. But to my surprise there was a call from 9654796813 purportedly stated that I should be present in Delhi High court vide case No DL412/10 and asked me to contact Mr. NK Tyagi with his phone No 09278083361 who advised me to go over to reliance office and make the payment. I am unable to eke out tail or head over this harassment for no fault of mine but for the sin done by your local outletwallas

  2. Part II
    Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 1:05 PM
    Reference to your complaint registration number -DOTEL/E/2011/09081
    Dear Customer,

    This is with reference to your complaint regarding receipt of bills/collection calls to clear the outstanding against your terminated Reliance Netconnect Broadband Number 9347355114.

    Please note that, as per your complaint said connection had already been terminated and waiver of Rs.1895.63/- has been posted into your account, it has been nullified now. Further, you will not receive any bill/calls of demand letters to clear the outstanding dues.

    We sincerely regret for the inconvenience caused to you in this regard.
    Thanks and warm regards,

    Amit Shukla
    Reliance Communications.

    Dear all they simply ignored the subject over the imposters and how many will pursue such unbecomings as I did?

    I marked copy to High courts Delhi and the TRAI.
    So dear common beware while dealing with Reliance for you cannot bear the heat they generate either with goons in Tata Sumo or such imposters

  3. @ Vaidya

    Hahaha! You almost make this sound like a consumer forum. LOL! You should write to Sucheta Dalal instead...

  4. Pity indeed, 99 % of our people are same and alike. It is a curse on us.

    New Delhi is a sensitive city. When bomb culture has become the order of the day, how come our intelligence and the Home Ministry can not be botehred about installing CCTVs to all the sensitive places and gates. It is a big slip and the responsible person to be booked.

    Praful Patel says that he hasjust chaired the meeting of Officials and contends that he is not responsible for the mess that AI is in. He says he never sanctioned 111 planes for AI and it is the making of AI iteslf meaning the Board members and AI CMD are alone responsible for the mess.

    If he is not responsible for the Mess, then why should he serve as a Minister. We can have a street beggar to head a department as its Minister. Who is responsible for giving away the timeslots of lucrative routes of AI to other private airlines? Praful will say that he is not responsible.

    Then what is the neeed of Yechury Committee report on the merger of AI? What action Govt has taken. MM Sing can not even excel as a lecturer in a college. Poor India. The media is not only crook but worse than that.

  5. ^^^
    During the world cup in VIP stands Praful was always seen with Vijay Mallaya. Now you don't have to be rocket scientist to make out the relationship among the two.

  6. Rajdeep always gets harsher treatment every time and he deserves it too. People have been programmed to get addicted to the TV and therefore this TRP regime and therefore the selective chosen topics on TV progamming to cater to the addiction. This is a vicious supply chain cycle that can only be broken if one of it's component is made redundant. Govt cannot interfere with the media business bcoz of Free Media, people cannot be stopped from watiching their favorite because they are free. In china, they have 100+ CCTV channels which air programmes in Chinese+ prominent Foreign languages and on all topics of sports,current affairs,business,agricultre, science+tech etc alebeit some restrictions on sensitive home news. A common chinese has all that he wants from these 100+channels run by CCTV. It may seem a bit of odd when a common chinese is legally banned to access international TV channels [BBC/CNN etc] but it makes sense when you see the Indian addiction cycle. Perhaps there is a need to match a balanace between these two systems.

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  8. @Ravinar
    Yeah the number of membership is increasing in this thread and we almost stopped reading even our regular news channel and the electronic media for obvious reasons.

    @ emmarcee
    Don't you know we have minister to issue statements and accounts of the happenings. See PC's statement, terrorists do act clandestinely" thus he sits on the apex rung of the foolery ladder. He could have opened a site and issued whip for all terrorists to mail him before they perpetrate the crime!


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