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NBA petitions TRAI against Republic TV’s presence on multiple frequencies

MUMBAI: In a surprising development, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the apex body of private news broadcasters, has complained to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) against Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV for taking dual slots on cable TV networks to boost its viewership.

The association, which has for the first time registered a complaint of this nature against a news channel, has urged the regulator to take action against what it calls an unethical distribution practice.

The NBA letter dated 12 May alleges that Republic TV is available multiple times on several distribution platforms under different genres. This, it claims, is in violation of TRAI interconnection regulations.

It must be noted here that dual frequency is not a new tactic employed by TV channels. Many news channels have tried it at some point to drive ratings.

In fact, India Today Television had toppled Times Now to claim the top spot in Week 22 of BARC ratings in 2015, thanks largely to its presence on dual frequencies on key cable TV networks.

As recently as February, Times Network had accused TV18-owned English business news channel CNBC TV18 of adopting an unethical and wrongful practice of replacing the feeds of its network/bouquet channels with CNBC TV 18 feed on multi-system operators (MSOs) like GTPL, InCable, E-lnfra, Kaizen, Digicable, Manthan, Barasat and Meghbela.

The Times Group-owned TV network had made an official complaint to BARC India urging the latter to take action against the channel.

Apart from news channels, TV home shopping channels have also been using multiple frequencies.

In September 2016, BARC India had clarified that, if a channel was available on multiple slots or feeds on a particular platform, its Bar-o-Meters would read all of them as one channel and would report its ratings as a single channel as long as all/multiple feeds carry the same unique watermark.