The News Broadcasters Association on Saturday urged the government to immediately withdraw the CBI probe into alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRP), saying the clash between Republic TV and Mumbai police is posing a threat to the credibility and respect for the media and the police.
In a statement, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) expressed serious concern at "the open-ended FIR registered by the Uttar Pradesh Police against the media for alleged TRP manipulation". "The speed with which the case was transferred to CBI overnight raises doubts about the intentions. A complaint filed against unknown persons by an individual who has no locus standi may lead to a witch-hunt against the media, its advertisers and advertising agencies," said the NBA.
"We sincerely urge the government to immediately withdraw the case referred to CBI," said the news media body, which is headed by Rajat Sharma. The NBA statement comes days after the CBI had registered an FIR into alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRP) on the basis of a reference from the Uttar Pradesh Police.
The case, which was earlier registered at a police station in Lucknow on a complaint of an advertising company promoter, was handed over to the CBI by the Uttar Pradesh government, officials had said. In its statement, the NBA also said that it is very disturbed at the turn of events in Mumbai as the "clash between Republic TV and Mumbai police is posing a threat to the credibility and respect of two great institutions, the media and the police".
"We are deeply concerned that journalists working in the newsroom have become victims of this unfortunate conflict," the NBA said. "We do not approve of the kind of journalism that is being practiced by Republic TV. And even though Republic TV is not a member of the NBA and does not subscribe to our Code, we still take strong exception to cases filed against its editorial staff," it said.
The NBA said it stands for the freedom of speech and expression of the media as enshrined in the Constitution of India. "At the same time, we endorse the practice of ethics in journalism and put fair and balanced reporting at the core of what we report upon," it said. The NBA said it reprehends any attempt to target journalists doing their work in newsrooms but, on the other hand, it disapproves of any "vengeful reporting by media".
"We condemn the reporting of baseless stories which subverts and interferes with the functioning of the law enforcement agencies," the news channels body said. It appealed to the Mumbai Police to ensure that no journalists are made victims of this crossfire.
"We also appeal to journalists working with Republic TV not to cross the 'Lakshman rekha' as clearly observed by the Bombay High Court," the NBA said. It also reiterated that it does not support toxic content and unethical journalism. "News broadcasters are governed by the independent regulatory body, NBSA, headed by (Retd.) Justice A.K. Sikri. NBSA over the years has played an extremely important role in being a watchdog by monitoring content of news channels," the statement said.
It has acted against well known national and regional broadcasters by levelling fines, apologies and warnings in several matters including the coverage of the death of late actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the NBA, which is a premier association of private news and current affairs broadcasters, said. "We appeal that non member broadcasters be requested to follow the Code of Ethics and Guidelines of NBSA," it said.
On the alleged TRP scam, the NBA said the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has a mechanism to deal with such cases. "An internal competent body headed by (Retd.) Justice Mukul Mudgal is capable and empowered to look into cases related to TRP data tampering. All cases related to TRP manipulation should be transferred to this authority," the statement said.
TRP or Television Rating Points of a channel or programme are used to measure popularity by advertising agencies which affect pricing. The points are calculated in India by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) using a device installed in over 45,000 households across the country called "Bar-O-Meter".
The device collects data about a programme or channel watched by members of these households on the basis of which BARC issues weekly ratings. Recently, the Mumbai Police had registered a case of TRP manipulation following which BARC temporarily suspended the ratings.