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Why Republic TV was singled out in NBA’s complaint to TRAI

Though a lot of channels go for multiple feeds to increase viewership, the broadcasters’ association chose to complain against only the newly launched Republic. finds out why

Buying multiple frequencies to place a single channel has always attracted criticism from the industry. But the complaint letter filed by the News Broadcasters’ Association (NBA) to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) about alleged Republic TV’s multiple feeds has given rise to a new string of questions and discussions. had exclusively reported on May 15: Republic TV resorts to 'multiple feed' for viewership, NBA writes to TRAI.

Republic TV has been accused of running its channel on multiple LCNs in as many as 171 cities across India during its launch. NBA has written to TRAI, pointing out that this has violated a rule in the TRAI regulations dated March 3, 2017.

A few recent examples of channels being aired at multiple slots include the rebranding of India Today TV (from Headlines Today) when India Today TV and Times Now were both running on multiple feeds. During the last budget, ET Now had filed a complaint against CNBC TV18, claiming their budget viewership was because of multiple frequency feeds.

While these are examples older than March 3, 2017 (when TRAI regulations were notified), as per the data from Chrome Data and Analytics, a lot of news channels are even now involved in such malpractices.

Now the floor is open for discussion. If this has been a practice as common as anything else, why did NBA take action now? Why was no other channels’ name included in this complaint?

It was understood from multiple industry sources that NBA normally issues an advisory to the member channels for violating the rules. “Now, whether one wants to adhere to the advice or not, is their call,” said an industry expert on condition of anonymity.

If any NBA member is violating the advisory and someone wants to approach TRAI, then the individual network broadcaster can go to the regulator, saying the channel is violating the regulation and should be brought to book. This is what had happened when India Today TV had implemented dual feeds at the time of re-launch. While Times Now and India Today TV were busy in multiplying their feeds, NDTV had complained about the malpractice in TRAI. But NBA, in its own capacity, doesn’t take its own members to TRAI.

Pankaj Krishna

Pankaj Krishna, Founder, Chrome Data and Analytics, said, “It is a known fact that multi LCN/ frequency placement is positively correlated with viewer sampling of a channel. It has been observed to be more rampant among news networks. Tactics like first and last placement (within genre) in an electronic programme guide (EPG), multi genre insertion of same channel, sandwiched within high sampled channels, etc., are common on ground.”

So what has made this instance to be the first one for NBA to reach out to TRAI? While the members of NBA could not be contacted to understand the reasoning, it was learnt that the move to approach TRAI was a unanimous decision between the members. Though nothing could be officially understood, after speaking to various experts we understood there might be two major reasons for NBA writing to TRAI.

Also read: Republic goes live, all eyes on barometers now

One of the reasons one of the veterans pointed out was that it might be because Republic TV is not yet a member channel of NBA and that sending advisory to a non-member channel will not make sense. Another prospective reason might be the magnitude of the violation.

While the news channels have been doing it on and off, on some of the select distribution networks, Republic TV seemed to have done it on a large scale, so much so that about 85 per cent of the TV households might have got affected.

“If this magnitude is true to the core, the damage that this will do to the English news broadcast industry will be massive and hence, it better be brought to the regulator’s notice,” said a veteran in the TV distribution business.

Also read: We sensed Arnab was planning an on-air farewell so was denied access: MK Anand, MD & CEO, Times Network

This complaint has brought to the fore once again the discussion about the validity of buying out multiple feeds on various genres. On that respect, even a single buyout of location will not only hamper the broadcasters on the viewership front, but it might also have a longer impact on the carriage fee expense of the broadcasters. This is setting an example where the local cable operators (LCOs) are getting benefitted and they might try to milk more money from broadcasters in the future.

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