‘Pro­posed chips in set-top boxes not to snoop on view­ers’

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - | POLITICS POLICY - NEWS NET­WORK

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”.

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