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TV Today’s petition against Republic TV in Delhi HC dismissed as withdrawn

MUMBAI: The Delhi High Court has dismissed TV Today Network’s petition as withdrawn following Republic TV’s statement that they have declared themselves only in the news and current affairs genre.

TV Today Network, which owns and operates Aaj Tak and India Today TV channels, had filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking a direction to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India to ensure that any broadcaster, TV channel or distributor that is in violation of TRAI regulations should be proceeded against as per law.

The petitioner had contended that Clause 18 of the Interconnection Regulation 2017 bars channels from using multiple logical channel numbers (LCNs) by reporting channels in one genre.

The news broadcaster had sought a direction for restraining BARC India from releasing the TRP rating of any TV channel not in compliance with the TRAI regulations. It also sought direction against BARC to clarify and suitably modify its procedure as regards the effect of dual LCN or multiple LCNs on its TRP ratings.

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA), of which TV Today Network is a member, had complained against Republic TV to TRAI that the latter is using dual LCNs to bolster its viewership. It also subsequently urged BARC India not to release viewership data for Republic TV until the matter of dual LCNs was resolved.

However, TV Today’s prayer restraining BARC from releasing data for Republic TV data became infructuous after the measurement body released the same on 18 May, a day after the Delhi High Court heard the matter.

The NBA’s worst fears came true when Republic TV emerged as the top channel in its very first week of broadcast and that too with a substantial viewership share of almost 50% among the top five channels.

Irked by BARC’s decision, English news channels like Times Now, India Today TV and NDTV 24×7 walked out of BARC measurement after removing watermark from their content. The Week 20 data for the English news genre will be the last data for these channels till the matter is resolved.

According to a lawyer involved in the matter, Republic TV had to make a declaration that they would declare themselves only under a single genre, i.e. news and current affairs. This, the lawyer added, would ensure that Republic TV could not be put in more than one LCN.

The Arnab Goswami-helmed channel had already made a declaration to that effect, as a result of which Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva dismissed the petition as withdrawn.

Meanwhile, TRAI is investigating the channels that have complaints against them for using multiple LCNs. The regulator has already issued notices to multi-system operators (MSOs) and Republic TV following a complaint by the NBA.

Republic TV founder and editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami had alleged that other English news channels were also using dual LCNs and action should also be taken against them. He also defended dual LCN by calling it a marketing tool.

BARC India has also distanced itself from the controversy, saying that the issue is beyond its domain and the industry should sort it on its own.

The measurement body clarified that it measured viewership of channels based on their unique watermark ID, irrespective of the platform the channel was available on or the number of instances within the platform.