In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
In a bid to outdo each other, channels window-dress their advertisements thereby artificially boosting their TRPs which are totally misleading.
Media channels come out with anything to make their numbers and brands look good. They advertise to the hilt, blow their own trumpets, and in the process manipulate the audience and consumers to thinking that they’re the best in business. Moneylife has thrown light on how media companies have window-dressed their recent advertisements, most notably on Budget Day and Election Day, to show higher TRPs, which is totally misleading.
Consider the following cases which Moneylife had analysed:
Times Now had proclaimed to be “Number 1” TV channel after ‘impressive’ TRP numbers it had witnessed on the budget day. The advertisement showed a graph of its viewership statistics and compared itself with its nearest competitors—CNN IBN and NDTV 24x7. Check ad below:
Using TAM ratings methodology, it showed a viewership of 32%, between 11am and 1pm, on Budget day, ahead of its competitors CNN IBN (17%) and NDTV 24x7 (25%). Similarly, during prime time (i.e. 8pm to 10:30pm), it had a 32% viewership share, far ahead of CNN-IBN (7%) and NDTV 24x7 (28%). Strangely, it has excluded other TV channels like Doordarshan and Headlines Today. Why?
“Corporate India chose BloombergUTV when it really mattered” is what the BloombergUTV advertisement chanted, insisting that it was the most watched channel on Budget day. Here, they used a different metric—a time period between 7pm and midnight was chosen; it included only eight metros and the entire state of Gujarat. It is perplexing to figure out why have they have chosen only Gujarat state. Anyway, BloombergUTV claims to have a 40% viewership share over NDTV Profit, CNBC TV18 and ET Now. Check the ad below. Again, TAM ratings were used here.
If you thought two channels were already “number 1”, you were wrong. CNBC-TV18 also proclaimed its right to the throne by declaring a whopping 79% market share on Budget day. The metrics used here was far different from the first two. It elongated the time period to include almost the whole day—from 6am till midnight—while at the same time it enlarged the geographic boundaries to include the entire country.
The Budget wasn’t the only platform which the media channels sought to assert their ‘supremacy’. During the Election Day (counting of votes) in the states of UP, Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand, both Times Now and NDTV 24x7 came out with respective ads showing off misleading TRPs.
Let us look into them:
Times Now asserted that it had 39% market share during the full day on Election Day and 49% market share during prime time between 7pm and 11pm. Do you notice anything perculiar? Times Now has two definitions of prime time—one is between 7pm and 11pm in this case, and between 8pm to 10:30pm in case of Budget Day. It is clear from this finding that the channel has conveniently tweaked its own definition of primetime to boost its own numbers.
NDTV, on the other hand, proclaimed 51% market share over CNN-IBN, Times Now, Headlines Today and, surprise (!), Doordarshan. However, NDTV used a different metric to arrive at its own figure. It polled 11 cities (it did not mentioned which cities), with a sample size of over 5000 people. It did not take its figures from TAM. Why? Perhaps its TAM ratings were abysmal?
So what do we learn from this?
1) Media companies will take a restricted sample size or a bigger sample size, depending on where they score better figures. NDTV conducted a poll and did not reply on TAM figures.
2) Media companies can exclude competitors from the advertisement, if they wish to. For instance, Times Now did not include Doordarshan and Headlines Today to compare its budget or election numbers.
3) The time period can be manipulated to which numbers throw impressive results. For instance, CNBC maybe the most watched channel between 4pm and 5pm but for all intents and purposes it could have been the least watched channel during “prime time”. Similarly, Bloomberg may have boosted its numbers from a including the state of Gujarat in addition to the eight other (unknown) metro cities.
Media companies will select their own sample size, geographic boundaries as well as time periods to make their TRP numbers look good. This way, consumers will focus on the graph and juicy information while skipping how advertisers come up with such artificial numbers. The bottomline is that when media companies publish these sorts of advertisements, it is best to ignore them because the numbers are meaningless when each use their own criteria.
Nowhere else can we travel on an extensive railway system at prices anywhere close to what we have in India. The experience can be richly rewarding on every rail journey. Good luck with rail travel this summer
With the summer holidays fast approaching and prices on air travel shooting through the roof, it is time to look at that old favourite for long distance travel again—Indian Railways. In what some would call its new improved avatar—with more non-stop Durontos, longer Rajdhanis, efficient VFM Garib Raths, restricted stoppage Sampark Krantis and other express trains with more coaches than before, and a wide range of summer specials—trains do provide a better option from a variety of points of view. And not just in terms of cost.
Quite a few railway stations in India are now vastly improved and dare one say—better than some airports. You do can move usually from city centre to city centre, without any of that heavy bother of reaching airports located in remote places hours in advance and then paying huge “user development fees” and “airport charges”. Such are often running into thousands of rupees now. And as for the average speed still hovering around in the 50kmph range for most trains and working up to 75kmph/80kmph for the faster Rajdhanis/Shatabdis. Please remember—there is also a larger social good at work here.
Fact remains—nowhere else in the reasonable world can we travel on an extensive railway system at prices anywhere close to what we achieve in India. That’s the bottomline. Faster trains = much costlier trains. The upwardly mobile middle class, which had become hooked on to low cost airlines, is discovering high airfares with a shock this season and is reportedly returning in droves to trains, for reasons of price. Those who talk about “bullet trains” are often those for whom price has no meaning, largely because within the Indian system they have got used to travelling free.
For the rest of us, many of us, it is back to basics. Trains. Only to discover long waiting lists and an almost impossible state of affairs with last minute tatkal booking. (There can and will be a separate series of articles on the scams in the Passenger Reservation System / PRS)
Fact also remains—many people who travel by train in India ‘manage’ their reservations by one means or the other, especially when advance bookings are totally full and waiting lists are as much or more than the capacity itself. This writer has been on both sides of the fence in this context, but increasingly, is perturbed by the fact that the reservation system at the Indian Railways is heavily manipulated for all sorts of ‘quotas’—some valid, and some totally rotten.
This single aspect makes the experience terrible. So how do we try to make that experience better, is the point of this article, especially for those who haven’t used a long distance train in a while.
(Writer’s note and disclosure—I have had a love affair with trains since childhood. At this age, nothing gives me more joy than spending some portion of a journey in the general unreserved compartment, while true value for money is achieved on a window side lower berth in the ordinary sleeper (non air-conditioned class) of a long distance train. That is not to say I do not enjoy 1st AC either, and that I am not averse to tipping a sanitation worker to sanitise the toilet before I use it, but read on...)
# Obviously, the best way to go about things is to plan well in advance, and manage your bookings 120 days ahead. However, this is not feasible for everybody, and on some routes, advance bookings run out on trains within minutes of the train opening up for reservations on your date and route. Typically, Hyderabad-Kolkata, Delhi-Mangalore, Mumbai-Allahabad, Bangalore-Cochin, even Delhi-Mumbai, and many other routes, are routes where reservations in most classes and trains vanish in minutes.
# Keep an eye open for the summer specials, especially the ones announced at the last minute, which is easier said than done. Typically, these will be small announcements in the media and almost invisible advertisements in some corner, so here the Internet is your best bet. Some good links are:
Indian Railways Summer Special Trains
Indian Rail Info
Each of these websites is ‘dynamic’ and keep you updated in real time, and maybe some day soon the webmasters and authorities will set up automatic email alerts generated to keep people in the loop.
# Don’t lose heart with long waiting lists in Sleeper and AC 3 Tier class, especially for reservation in trains that have a large number of Sleeper and AC 3 Tier coaches. Multiple bookings are quite common, and the waiting lists usually start evaporating 2-3 days ahead of travel date, as people start cancelling tickets to avoid higher penalties. The same is not true in AC 2 Tier and 1AC, because there are a very limited number of these coaches, and much of their capacity goes in ‘quotas’. Frankly, with the roll-back in fares, AC-3 Tier on super-fast and non-stop or restricted stop trains like the Durontos, Rajdhanis, Sampark Krantis and Garib Raths, make a lot of sense.
# Assuming now that you are on a huge waiting list 120 or lesser days in advance. Use the RTI Act of India, 2005, to ask for information on the booking position on your specific train, as well as information on seats/berths held back for ‘quotas’. Address this RTI to the CPIO at the Railway Board in Delhi. This will bring your train under observation of the Railway Board, it will spook the zone under which the train runs, and there are good chances that all the hanky-panky will vanish, while the villains who mess with the bookings will leave that train alone.
Tip: If you are concerned, then run the RTI Application in somebody else’s name. The addresses are:
The CPIO under RTI Act of India or incumbent thereof,
Railway Board, New Delhi,
DD (PG) & CPIO (Registration & Coordination)
Room # 05, RTI Cell / Rail Bhavan, New Delhi -110001
email addresses are:- [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
# Lower berths in 2AC and 1AC are another huge racket with the Indian Railways. Most, if not all of them, are held back by them in the name of HOR (Higher Officer requisition) or VIP quotas. Sometimes, the upper berths in 1AC are not even ‘released’ to paying passengers, because HORs/VIPs are occupying the lower berths. The Railways try to hide this data. This is the subject of another rather complicated RTI application by this writer, a copy of which can be seen by clicking here.
# Now that you’ve hopefully acquired a confirmed reservation, standard conditions of travel anywhere in the world apply, including all common sense and logical precautions. The advent of almost seamless voice and data communications en route, the proliferation of digital photography, and an experience which can be richly rewarding await you on every rail journey. Yes, often the environs can become crowded, but hey—the other people need to travel too and with a wee bit of the passage of time, everybody ‘adjusts’.
Certainly, try and avoid the ‘older’ trains which have had stops added to their schedule over the years for political reasons, or trains which pass through areas with schedules where commuter and student traffic will also board the train. If you are stuck on such a train, then keep your head down, and don't mess with the locals. They are on the same train same route every day.
Likewise, there are more variants on rackets and con games on trains now than there were in years gone past, and they have the benefit of modern technology too. Travel light, and please don’t carry your family fortunes with you, simple. Food is another issue, and at the end of the day, home-cooked and preserved vegetarian fare is still the best—along with a ‘surahi’ of water.
End game: We can either sit and crib about the state of affairs, including that with the Indian Railways, or we can try to do something about it. It is not for nothing that some dry wit in the Indian Railways nick-named the quota ‘HOR’ a long time ago (evolved from HO quota, by the way). It is also not for nothing that friends of mine who are or have been in the Indian Railways helped me with this article, as they are themselves fed up with this VIP/HOR business, very often they are left with no time for anything else—and let more of us try to imagine what it does to their self-esteem and self-respect as well as dignity.
Good luck with rail travel this summer. And subsequently too. Because nothing is more fun than off-season travel on a good train pelting through this wonderful country of ours.
PS: MoneyLife Foundation is organising a seminar, Country, Before Party and Self, featuring former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi in Mumbai on 16th April. He will speak on why his budget was important for the Railways and the consequence of coalition politics where key ministries are distributed like fiefs to political allies.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)
The mischievous amendments to the RTI Act by the Maharashtra government have enraged RTI users and activists. Here’s why the government needs to backtrack
By now, the amendments proposed by the Maharashtra government in the RTI (Right to Information) Act have turned into a massive public outcry. Rightly so. Not only because they have been brought in surreptitiously, but because contents of the amendments too are ridiculous.
Let’s understand why the state government must back track immediately:
I. It cannot make any decision without keeping the people informed/consulted
According to Section 4 (1) (C) of the RTI Act, every public authority (government department) shall “publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public.’’
My comments: It needs to therefore undertake public consultations and opinions before it makes these amendments. Like Anna Hazare says, ‘they’ have forgotten that ‘we’ are a democracy.
II. Why only a pencil
The amendment says that an applicant will be allowed to bring in only a pencil when he/she goes for inspection of files. We, the people should not even have to visit a government office, as it is supposed to deliver us information at the click of the mouse. As per the Section 4 of the RTI Act, every government office (called public authority in government parlance) should suo moto display information. Here’s what the rule under Section 4 (2) and (3) says:
1. “Section (2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.
Section (3) For the purposes of sub-section (1), every information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public.”
Also, Section 2 (i) states that information to the people has to be provided through various means like Photostat copies, images, manuscripts, files and so on, so the amendment to bring in only a pencil during inspection of documents is further irrelevant. Here’s what Section 2 (f) and (i) says:
Section 2 (f) ‘information’ means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force;
Section 2 (i) ‘Record’ includes:
(a) any document, manuscript and file;
(b) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document;
(c) any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and
(d) any other material produced by a computer or any other device;
(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to—
(i) inspection of work, documents, records;
(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
(iii) taking certified samples of material;
(iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video
cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such
information is stored in a computer or in any other device;
My comments: Hence, it is more appropriate that the state government issues a new circular to all government departments to upload all the information as per Section 4 and update it from time to time which again is mandatory under the RTI Act instead of dabbling in petty nothings like getting a pencil or a pen during inspection of files.
III. The state government been complaining that too many RTI applications has increased workload of its Public Information Officers (PIOs) and the new amendment will make it worse
According Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act, if the applicant asks a question which is not within the purview of the PIO, then he or she must transfer the application to the appropriate PIO within five days from the receipt of the application. Which means the onus lies with the PIO to ensure that the applicant is not unnecessarily harassed by making him or her run from pillar to post. Here’s what the rule says:
(3) Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an
(i) which is held by another public authority; or
(ii) the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the
functions of another public authority, the public authority,to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer: Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this sub-section shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.
My comments: Thus, presently, even if the citizen has filed the RTI application to the wrong government department, he or she need not worry as the PIO is required to forward it. With the new amendment, the state government is ridiculously asking the applicant to ask only one question “in not more than 150 words and that too pertaining to one subject matter” and has given liberty to the PIO to decline giving replies to every other query beyond the first one. Thus, the state government is not only suffocating dissemination of information but is increasing paper work for the citizen as well as the PIO through a series of RTI applications. The state government is clearly attempting to frustrate the citizen so that he or she will give up on the use of RTI, thus making this amendment malicious. It is simultaneously releasing the responsibility of the PIO as per Section 6 (3).
IV. It is reducing a RTI application to a near Twitter style by restricting it to 150 words. It is unpractical as often it is a string of questions that provide answer to one issue and gives a larger picture of the issue. Here’s an example:
A few years back, residents of Katraj were agitated due to very low water supply in their neighbourhood compared to other localities. They staged protests and even took out morchas to the municipal commissioner’s office and ward office. Both turned a deaf ear. So, they filed a RTI application to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) asking the following questions:
* How much water per person per day is provided to residents of Katraj
* How much water per person per day is provided to localities of (the application named five other localities of Pune)
* What is the reason for low supply of drinking water to Katraj?
It was only when they were informed that other localities were receiving 135 litres to 190 litres per day while they were receiving only 28 litres per day that they could seek legal intervention and the PMC was compelled to take appropriate action. In this case, any one of these questions would have been insufficient and asking each one of them through different RTI applications is obviously senseless.
Conclusion: Amendments should see the light of the day. For this, citizens and citizen pressure groups must be vocal.