New Delhi: Parliament’s panel on information technology on Thursday took up media ethics and flagged that Television Rating Points (TRPs) are “easily manipulated” amid allegations of a scam involving certain news channels.

Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Justice CK Prasad, information and broadcasting ministry secretary Amit Khare and other senior officials briefed the panel on the issue amid a controversy that certain news channels have manipulated the TRPs.

The panel led by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor unanimously agreed that the TRP is not a robust method to measure viewership. “It is not in tune with current technologies,” said a person familiar with the matter.

Over 10 members including Bharatiya Janata Party’s Syed Zafar Islam and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and the Congress’s Karti Chidambaram attended the meeting.

People familiar with the matter added that the information and broadcasting ministry was in agreement with the points made by members of the panel.

“Due to converging technologies, it is difficult to have a regulatory framework.There is no uniformity of content and this required,” said the person mentioned above.

To specific questions, officials told the panel members that the current system to ascertain TRP is “not very scientific and accurate”, people familiar with the matter told news agency PTI.

The members had a productive discussion about the need for policy changes in terms of regulation of media, including having a consolidated media council, instead of the PCI. The use of artificial intelligence tools was also discussed, this person added.

“This not to blame anyone. The environment is rapidly changing and even BARC has decided not to publish weekly data for news channels for a period of time,” said this person aware of the matter .

The person added that the issue was not about censorship, but that regulatory oversight is required and there is a need to amend existing laws to make that happen. “The ministry is working on alternatives and the members will put forth their suggestions regarding the same in Parliament,” this person added.

Mumbai Police recently arrested at least five people over an alleged TRP scam. The police are also questioning executives of the Arnab Goswami-led Republic Media Group with regard to the case. Republic Media Group has denied any wrongdoing.

(With agency inputs)

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