Fraud Nirmal Baba (70) : A Study on Nirmal Baba and the TRP Scam

Recent phenomenon of Nirmal Baba alias Nirmaljit Singh Narula has broken all records of TRPs and ever sliding journalistic standards of Hindi news channels which has been a subject of debate from streets to Supreme Court of India which is currently giving a serious thought on framing guidelines for media. Since past week Nirmal Baba and his much infamous “paid” slot – Third Eye of Nirmal Baba has sparked a new battle line within two sections of Hindi news channels one that run “paid” slot of Nirmal Baba and others who do not run it and lost grounds on TRPs.  With the battle going on in full scale and many stories of funny and unscientific remedies offered by Nirmal Baba to millions of viewers of the news and non news channels continue to surface on websites, news papers and in few news channels.

Media Studies Group in its study found that race of earning more TRPs among few news channels by telecasting “paid” slot of “Third Eye of Nirmal Baba” seems a product of loopholes in TRPs system which requires an urgent attention. In this manipulation of TRPs with the few news channels TAM Media Research is equally answerable. Information & Broadcasting Ministry and NBA (News Broadcasters Association) are also not less responsible for turning a blind eye over this questionable practice by few broadcasters and for allowing masses to be fed with unscientific and superstitious content in gross violations of guidelines and law of the land.

Before elaborating as how Nirmal Baba became phenomenon overnight let us first briefly examine the process of TRPs (Television Rating Points) without going into complexities as how it is calculated. TAM has over 8000 people meters installed across cities from where it gets data of viewership pattern in various Target Groups and time band. For the purpose of this study let’s consider the case of news    channels only.  News channels which subscribe to TAM data have to give their FPC (Fixed Point Chart) in other words programme schedule to TAM in advance. TAM in turn gives weekly viewership data and analysis to subscriber news channels according to FPC submitted by the respective news channels. The weekly average sum total of this FPC wise data is the key element in deciding ranking of news channels on the basis of TRP.

It all began in January this year. Third Eye of Nirmal Baba has been on air in few channels during morning and afternoon as a “paid slot” for over a year and went unnoticed by many. Then from the last week of January this year something happened which by March took an alarming shape.

Have a look of TRP landscape among Hindi News Channels in the third week of January. This has been a general pattern for a year or so with slight change of positions on weekly basis. There is no trace of Nirmal Baba among the top five programmes of the week which was dominated by Aaj Tak with 4 and Star News by 1 programme respectively. The key point here is to examine that all programmes listed among top five are the programmes produced in house by respective channels and part of their regular FPC not to mention that these were not “paid” slots.  Interestingly four out of five top programmes are news bulletins.

The Game Begins :

From last week of January the real game began which is visible in table below. The change in TRP landscape was visible with Third Eye of Nirmal Baba makes its place in top five bracket through News 24 in fourth position. This is to be noted that the programme “Third Eye of Nirmal Baba” is not news content but a paid slot and this requires an inspection as to how a “paid slot” which is nothing but pure advertising and openly violates content guidelines was not only counted in TRPs but also released as top five news programme of the week four by TAM under Religious\Devotional category.

Then came February and “paid slot” of Third Eye of Nirmal Baba reached to the top slot again through News 24. This was a turning point as at this time it was noticed by the “competition” and a race to show Nirmal Baba began. It is surprising that many channels which are showing Nirmal Baba to get spikes in TRPs are not even bothered to caption the programme as “Advertisement” which is a practice and without any kind of disclaimer to disassociate their “news organization” from the unscientific remedies offered by Nirmal Baba. Similar paid content of self promotions by few other babas after midnight is shown with a tag of “Advertisement” and obviously not included in FPC and thus not reflecting in content TRPs.  

The latest figures available to us through TAM shows that upto April Nirmal Baba is still hovering at the top slot and now India TV took him to the top and many other news channels which are running him gained considerably. In the new TRP landscape News 24 is now double digit and ahead of Zee News, P7 reached close to 6, Sahara also improved its position. 

Our comment and observation: Beyond the issue of superstitious content which promotes unscientific temperament among masses, it is a straight advertising which is being served as news content and that too without any kind of warning or disclaimer to viewers. More dangerous is the new trend where Ad Sales and Editorial is merged with each other. At the time when nation-wide debate is going on the threat posed by paid news to responsible journalism – Nirmal Baba episode has opened an extension counter of paid news in broadcasting. It is also very surprising that I&B Ministry and NBA which keep sending “advisories” to news channels on a regular basis (Latest one is on follow up of Indian Express story of troops’ movement towards NCR) are silent on the issue.

Notes and References:

Section 8 – Self Regulation Guidelines of NBA (News Broadcasters Association)

Refraining from advocating or encouraging superstition and occultism :News channels will not broadcast any material that glorifies superstition and occultism in any manner. In broadcasting any news about such genre, news channels will also issue public disclaimers to ensure that viewers are not misled into believing or emulating such beliefs and activity. Therefore news channels will not broadcast “as fact” myths about “supernatural” acts, apparitions and ghosts, personal or social deviations or deviant behaviour, and recreations of the same. Wherever references are made to such cases, news channels will issue on air riders/disclaimers/warnings to ensure that such beliefs or events are not passed off “as fact” since they can hurt rational sensibilities.

Programme and Advertising Codes

Prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994

Rule- 6. Programme Code. – (1) No programme should be carried in the cable

service which:-

(j) Encourages superstition or blind belief;

The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954

harm of any kind which is alleged to possess miraculous powers for or in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease in human beings or animals or for affecting or influencing in any way the structure or any organic function of the body of human beings or animals;

(d) 'taking any part in the publication of any advertisement' includes-1.Short title, extent and commencement

.-(1)  This Act may be called the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and applies also to persons domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who are outside the said territories.

(3) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, be notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.


.- In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-

(a) 'advertisement' includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper, or other document, and any announcement made orally or by any means of producing or transmitting light, sound or smoke;

(b) drug includes-

(i) a medicine for the internal or external use of human beings or animals;

(ii)  any substance intended to be used for or in the diagnosis, cure , mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease in human beings or animals;

(iii)  any article, other than food, intended to affect or influence in any way the structure or any organic function of the body of  human beings or animals;

(iv)  any article intended for use as a component of any medicine, substance or article, referred to in sub-clauses (i), (ii) and (iii);

(c) 'magic remedy' includes a talisman, mantra, kavacha, and any other c

(i) the printing of the advertisement,

(ii) the publication of any advertisement outside the territories to which this Act extends by or at the instance of a person residing within the said territories;

(e) 'venereal disease' includes syphilis, gonorrhoea, soft chancre, venereal granuloma and lympho granuloma.

3.Prohibition of advertisement of certain drugs for treatment of certain diseases and disorders

.- Subject to the provisions of this Act, no person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement referring to any drug in terms which suggest or are calculated to lead to the use of that drug for-

(a) the procurement of miscarriage in women or prevention of conception in women; or

(b) the maintenance or improvement of the capacity of human beings for sexual pleasure; or

(c) the correction of menstrual disorder in women; or

(d) the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any venereal disease or any other disease or condition which may be specified in rules made under this Act.

4.Prohibition of misleading advertisements relating to drugs

.- Subject to the provisions of this Act, no person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement relating to a drug if the advertisement contains any matter which –

(a) directly or indirectly gives a false impression regarding the true character of the drug; or

(b) makes a false claim for the drug; or

(c) is otherwise false or misleading in any material particular.

 5.Prohibition of advertisement of magic remedies for treatment of certain diseases and disorders

.- No person carrying on or purporting to carry on the profession of administering magic remedies shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement referring to any magic remedy which directly which directly or indirectly claims to be efficacious for any of the purposes specified in section 3.

जन मीडिया द्वारा जारी.

सीरिज की अन्य खबरें पढ़ने के लिए यहां क्लिक करें– फ्राड निर्मल बाबा

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