‘Proposed chips in set-top boxes not to snoop on viewers’
TIMES New Delhi: Government has denied opposition charges that the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) is planning a surveillance drive, this time to monitor which television channel people watch, and for how long.
The denial follows a letter I&B secretary has written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in March, proposing that set top boxes be fitted with electronic chips that can accurately monitor viewership data, and give the ministry a realistic picture of the viewship data and popularity of each channel.
Sources in the government said the ministry was unhappy with the “opaque” manner in which Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) collected its data, as well as the authenticity and accuracy of the data they supplied. Since TRP data is collected from TV sets provided to viewers free-of-cost by BARC, sources said the government believed it could be manipulated to favour one or more channels.
In its place, the ministry is of the opinion that a pre-fitted chip in set-top boxes will not only break the BARC’s monopoly in providing viewership data, but also bring greater transparency and accuracy to the figures collected.
Coming close on the heels of earlier orders on fake news that embarrassed the government and had to rescinded in less than a day, this proposal too was seen by the opposition as the government’s attempt at forced surveillance. On Twitter, Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala referred to the proposal to install chips in set top boxes as the “next stage of surveillance by BJP”. He referred to it as a “serious breach of privacy”.