TRP Scam: CCI orders closure of information filed against BARC alleging contravention of Competition Act

Competition Commission of India (CCI): Coram of Ashok Kumar Gupta (Chairperson) and Sangeeta Verma and Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi (Members) refused to examine the information filed against Broadcast Audience Research Council on merits.

Present information was filed under Section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act, 2002 by Informant against Broadcast Audience Research Council (OP/BARC) alleging the contravention of the provisions of Sections 3 and 4 of the Act.

The Informant is stated to have recently come to know, through TV channels and a few reports, about the ‘fake TRP’ scam and how a few news channels have been making payments to increase their viewership and thereby, their TRP ratings.

Further, the Informant stated that OP had suspended reporting of ratings for a period of 8-12 weeks for news channels while continuing to publish ratings of other channels.

Adding to the above, it was submitted that if the system is faulty in respect of news channels, it can be faulty in respect of other genres of channels too. Thus, when institutional integrity has been compromised, it is improper to allow such an institution to publish ratings.

Allegation by the informant was that the OP had colluded with a private news channel and a media outlet and manipulated TRP ratings of the said news channel and media outlet such that they were perceived as the highest-grossing television channels which would, in turn, invite more advertisements.

The collusion between the OP and television channels would amount to an arrangement between entities at different stages of production and the manipulation of TRP has a direct and significant impact on the performance of a channel and how it is received by the public, and therefore, OP entered into an anti-competitive agreement which was prohibited under Section 3 of the Act.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Commission noted from the reply of OP that it had got a criminal complaint registered with the Mumbai Police in relation to ‘TRP Scam’. OP further claimed to have assisted several law enforcement agencies in their investigations surrounding the ‘ratings manipulation’.

OP’s Technical Committee has provided its recommendations on the revised reporting standards, and the OP is in the process of implementing the same once the directions for maintaining the status quo are lifted by MIB.

Lastly, the Commission opined that it is unnecessary to dwell any further on the issues projected in the Information by examining the matter on merits, and accordingly, the Information is ordered to be closed. [R. Gunasekaran v. Broadcast Audience Research Council, Case No. 11 of 2021, decided on 23-11-2021]

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