“[TRP Scam] Popular tastes being what they are, entertainment sells: What the Bombay HC held in a 2001 judgment”

The ongoing Television Rating Points (TRP) scam which brings news channels under the spotlight for supposedly manipulating viewership numbers, also brings into mind a Bombay High Court judgement which was passed almost two decades ago.

Back in 2001, the High Court heard a plea filed by PS Deodhar, who prayed for directions to the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to set up an independent body to supervise TRPs in relation to television channels and programmes. The advertisement rates are determined by private broadcasters on the basis of their TRPs, Deodhar made a submission that the methods used by the TRP measuring agencies to determine viewership were flawed and skewed towards urban homes.

The Bench of now Supreme Court judge, Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud and Justice B Singh, rejected Deodhar’s plea and directed him to place his complaints before the appropriate authority in the Central government.

The Court had stated that these are matters on which, it would not be suitable for the Bombay High Court to grant the relief sought, given the limits of the jurisdiction of  the Bombay High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.

The Bombay High Court, just observed that accepting an agency’s data would depend on the reliability of that data, and that there was no obligation on the advertiser or the marketing agencies to trust on the data provided by the TRP agency. The Bombay High Court decided that it is normal knowledge that the entertainment value of a programme on television determines its ability to attract advertisements and hence its revenue generating potential.

Whether this disaster will lead to the government stepping in to regulate the current system of TRP ratings remains to be seen. The controversy appears to be one that will keep the media industry tuned in for days to come.

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