NBA writes to TRAI about violations by Republic TV | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Even as Mumbai police have made six arrests in the course of their widening investigation into allegations that households with bar-o-meters were bribed to keep their TVs switched to Republic TV and two Marathi channels in order to boost TRPs, there have been numerous formal complaints by the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) of other serious regulatory violations by Republic aimed at boosting viewership.
In the last six months alone, NBA has written over 20 letters to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman against Republic TV occupying multiple ‘logical channel numbers (LCNs)’, including in other genres and languages, in violation of TRAI regulations that limit a TV channel to only one LCN or slot on a cable or DTH platform.
By using multiple LCNs, Republic has placed itself alongside more popular channels in various genres and languages, thus increasing the chances of it being seen by more viewers while surfing. Even a small increase in time spent on an English news channel in a panel home can significantly increase its TRPs (television rating points).
In a strongly-worded letter to TRAI’s chairman just last week, NBA chairman Rajat Sharma wrote that “since the launch of Republic TV and Republic Bharat channels, several DPOs (distribution platform operators) are registering these channels under different genres in their EPG (electronic program guide) by listing them on multiple LCNs or placing the channel in the incorrect language category in their EPG.”
“Despite our various representations, Republic TV, which is a ‘News and Current Affairs’ genre TV channel in the English language category, is being re-transmitted on various networks in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry in the incorrect Tamil language category in the news genre and the said activity continues even today with impunity,” Sharma said.
He said this was being done by certain DPOs at the “behest” of Republic “in contravention of Regulation 18 of the Interconnect Regulations”. This regulation requires every channel to declare its genre and for distributors to place channels of the same genre together, consecutively. It also specifies that one channel shall appear in “one place only”.
Sharma said Republic’s actions were also “in violation of Regulation 38 of Quality of Service (QoS) Regulations, which require that a channel of same language shall be put together within the same subgenre”, and added, “QoS Regulations are meant to protect consumer interest, and a particular viewer who is navigating through the EPG of a particular language should not be subjected to finding different language channels placed in between that particular language channel. In our previous letter dated 01.06.2020, we had clearly demonstrated how this activity is undertaken in TN, Puducherry wherein Republic TV is placed in between Tamil language news channels.”
This, Sharma said, was “anti-competitive and amounts to an unfair trade practice adopted by these networks in favour of Republic TV, which is discriminatory against channels of our members and causing irreparable loss to their business.”
In an earlier letter in May, Sharma had said, “The acts of Republic TV and Republic Bharat are illegal and in clear violation of TRAI regulations… The violations of these channels have been left unchecked for the last couple of years.” He added that if these violations were to continue, it would ultimately lead to a “hostile environment” that would be “prejudicial” to the broadcasting industry and would “distort” viewership data and customer choice and “drastically hamper” the interests of those broadcasters who do not resort to such “unfair and illegal means”.
NBA has requested the regulator to “intervene immediately” before this “unhealthy practice” spirals out of control. Information sourced from distribution platforms shows that as on October 10, Republic TV was available either out of the genre or on two LCNs in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana across 39 different cable TV service providers. On 10 of such cable operators’ platforms, even the second LCN was outside the English news genre. Mostly, Republic TV was placed with regional news or movies genres, in violation of the regulations.
Industry veterans TOI spoke with said the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) should utilise the three-month pause in TRPs of news channels — prompted by Mumbai police’s investigation — to clean up the entire ratings system and restore both India Inc’s and the public’s faith in the numbers it puts out.

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