The Bombay High Court on Friday asked TV Today network to cough up a fine of Rs. 5 lakh imposed on it by the viewership rating agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) for alleged viewership tampering. The said fine is to be deposited by the media network which owns news channels India Today and Aaj Tak before the Court’s registry, which will ensure that no coercive action is taken by BARC against the network temporarily. BARC had earlier passed an order against TV Today Network alleging violation of its code of conduct, and had imposed a fine of Rs. 5 lakh on the network, Bar and Bench reported.
The Bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav stated, “It will be open to TV Today Network without prejudice to its rights and contentions to deposit the amount of Rs.5 lakhs as directed by the BARC’s Disciplinary Council in the registry of this Court. If this amount is deposited no coercive steps will be taken against TV Today in the meanwhile.” The media network was asked to deposit the fine amount on a plea filed by itself, seeking directions from the High Court to quash and set aside the order of BARC issued against it for malpractices, along with a warning letter cautioning the network to refrain from indulging in any viewership malpractice.
The issue first hit the headlines when India Today had occupied itself full time to denigrate Republic TV for the latter’s alleged tampering of TRP data. After quite a lasting moral grandstanding by India Today editors and staff, it was revealed that not Republic Media Network, but India Today itself was mentioned in the original FIR filed in the case pertaining to the TRP tampering racket. This was then followed by stunning disclosures of India Today also having been found guilty by BARC’s disciplinary committee of viewership malpractices, and subsequently being fined for 5 lakh rupees. The media network, however, did not cough up the fine until the High Court’s direction on Friday.
BARC alleged that it appeared to them “that this abnormal jump in the Daily Average Reach of the TV Today channels may be due to influencing the panel households which was strictly prohibited by the Code of Conduct for redressing the viewership malpractices.” Such revelations made top editors of India Today go into hiding for a considerable amount of time, even as they floundered around to put up a decent defence and wipe the eggs off their faces for accusing Republic TV of something which they themselves had been held guilty for.