Times Network has released a statement through which it looks to educate the public about 'landing pages', which it believes is perfectly legal.
According to the statement, landing pages are a perfectly clean marketing tool permitted by the law in India and very commonly used across the world by broadcasters and advertisers to market themselves to viewers.
The statement adds that Times Network and its use of landing pages is being used to shift the focus from the main issues in the #TRPScam.
What are landing pages?
Landing page (LP) refers to being present on the frequency that viewers see as the first channel when they switch on their set top box.
Times Network's statement adds that using the landing page is a standard feature of all digital set top boxes and is the top advertising space to showcase channels to maximum viewers. "Placement for better visibility is a basic marketing strategy used by all product categories and is the right of every business. It is the same when FMCG companies acquire top shelf space in supermarkets for higher visibility. Or advertisers place ads on the front page of newspapers at high cost for highest visibility. This advertising space on set top boxes is available to all and is not done by any underhand deals. An important thing to note is that landing page only gives the opportunity to watch a channel; the choice to change the channel immediately is available to all viewers."
The statement also revealed that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI) jurisdiction to rule in the usage of landing pages in December 2018 was challenged by Times Network and set aside by TDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal). The matter is now before the Honourable Supreme Court, wherein while staying TDSAT’s Order, the court has directed TRAI not to enforce its direction against broadcasters during the pendency of the matter. This makes the use of landing pages absolutely legal and an authorised activity.
Times Network added that a 'Landing Page Filtration Algorithm' was officially announced by BARC on 3 September 2020 and Times Network has challenged this in Bombay High Court and the matter is sub judice as on date. The 44 week Forensic audit is for the period May 2017 to March 2018 when no such filtration policy was in place and BARC had no mandate to remove bonafide reach from landing pages.
The statement also took a dig at the current scandal between Republic TV and BARC's former CEO, Partho Dasgupta.
"Times Network uses only bonafide and legally valid means to do its business. It does not indulge in panel-tampering or bribing BARC officials which are cheating practises followed by unscrupulous players as is being unravelled in the ongoing investigation in the TRP scam for which the former BARC CEO is currently being interrogated in police custody. Times Network has optimised its product, brand and distribution with best-in-class inputs including landing pages at prevailing market prices to deliver its channels to maximum viewers and it is worthy to note that any increment in viewership is real and genuine. Our advertisers get genuine viewers that they have paid for, unlike on channels who allegedly manipulate ratings, where advertisers would have been duped to pay for artificially inflated numbers and non-existent viewers. It is deplorable that the broadcaster, inter-alia, accused in the TRP scam, is attempting to create a wrong impression on usage of Landing Pages as part of the TRP manipulation matter which is now under investigation by the Mumbai Police."