New Delhi, Oct 15 (PTI) Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi on Thursday urged Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar to take urgent steps to ensure transparency in the TRP system.

Chaturvedi met Javadekar on a day when the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) temporarily suspended weekly ratings of news channels across languages.

“I am writing to you to highlight an extremely serious matter that directly attacked the fourth pillar of our democracy. A timely investigation by the Mumbai Police has revealed an insidious manipulation of television rating points (TRP) by certain television channels which raises serious questions on the credibility and independence of media.

“It is my request to you that the government should ensure transparency in the system,” she said in a letter.

“While the Mumbai Police has already identified three channels indulging in the manipulation, the rot may go deeper than it appears. It is our solemn duty that a correct picture is sent across to viewers who depend on these channels for credibility of information not realising that these channels are indulging in corrupt and criminal malpractices to push partition agenda as journalism,” Chaturvedi said.

She said freedom of speech cannot give protection to commission of crime and sought urgent action from the minister.

“This is also doing a huge disservice to the cause of journalism which is considered the fourth important pillar of democracy. We will have to urgently devise methods to ensure transparency and seek opinions from various stakeholders so as to ensure applicability.

“Hope you will take necessary and suited action,” she said.

Referring to the present investigation by the Mumbai Police in the case, the Shiv Sena leader said five panel TV homes have been unearthed where metres were installed to capture viewership. They were compromised to rig viewership of certain channels.

“This has led to five arrests, including one from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh. In the immediate consequence, the BARC has also suspended TRP system for the next 12 weeks amid the (TRP) scam,” she said in the letter, adding that it was “unfortunate that people-metres have a history of manipulation, but no serious introspection has been done to ensure more transparency”.

“This manipulation does not only indicate financial fraud, but strikes at the core of a democracy. It directly affects the people’s right to know the truth which the media is morally and legally bound to provide. It is through an independent and fair media that people form opinions...

“As TRPs are manipulated and a toxic version of news presentation gains currency, it also affects the financial sustainability of other media houses which do not indulge in such practices,” she added.

Following the fake TRP scam, the BARC on Thursday announced a temporary suspension of weekly ratings of news channels across languages.

The council intends to review and augment the current standards of measurement to improve on "statistical robustness", and the exercise will result in a "pause" in the weekly ratings for up to 12 weeks, an official statement said.