The Mumbai Police on Thursday, 8 October, addressed a press conference and said that it has busted a "TRP scam", whereby Television Rating Points (TRPs) were being manipulated. The police named Republic TV and two other Marathi channels who it said were involved in the practice. Four people have been arrested in connection with the matter.
The police said that it has arrested owners of the two Marathi channels, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema, and said that "whoever in Republic TV" was involved in the process of rating manipulations will also be brought in for questioning.
Shirish Pattan Shetty, the owner of Fakt Marathi, was arrested from Andheri, while Narayan Sharma, the owner of Box Cinema, was arrested from Malad.
Republic TV, meanwhile, issued a statement soon after Mumbai Police’s briefing, saying it would file a criminal defamation case against Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh.
In a press conference, the Mumbai Police chief said that ratings by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), an organisation under the Ministry of Information and Broadcast (I&B), which measures television ratings in India, has been manipulated.
The police said that an organisation named Hansa Research Group Private Limited, which the BARC had entrusted with confidential data related to ratings, had misused the data.
In the press briefing, Singh said that they first arrested one ex-employee of Hansa Research, from whom they received more information about other employees/former employees who were involved in the practice. Vishal Bhandari, the former Hansa employee, was arrested from Malad, while Bompalli Rao Mistry alias Sanju Rao was arrested from Versova, police said. The police commissioner said that the two have been remanded to Crime Branch custody till 9 October.
The police also said that it has recovered cash worth Rs 20 lakh from the residence of one, and Rs 8 lakh from the other’s.
How Was the ‘Scam’ Carried Out?
TV ratings are measured by barometers that BARC sets up in random sample houses. The police said that Hansa had shared the confidential data recorded in these barometers with TV channels.
They further said that sample houses, where barometers had been installed to monitor ratings, were paid to watch certain TV channels. The amount paid was between 400 and 500 rupees per house per month.
Consumers were even asked to keep their TV sets on while they were not watching or were out of home.
“If you see the data, poor uneducated households that don’t speak English were watching only English TV channels,” Singh said.
"Anyone involved in the channel, no matter how top management, how senior, will be questioned, and if involved they will be investigated," he said, speaking about Republic TV.
Explaining that TRPs were used by channels to get higher advertising, the police said that the money made from such ‘manipulation’ will be seen as "proceeds of crime".
Republic TV Responds
Responding to allegations of manipulation, Republic TV accused the Mumbai Police Commissioner of making false allegations and said that the channel was being targeted for questioning the Mumbai Police in the probe of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
“Republic TV will file a criminal defamation case against Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh. There is not a single BARC report that mentions Republic TV. The people of India know the truth,” the statement added.
"Issue an apology or get ready to face us in court," further read the statement by the channel, issued under the name of editor-in-chief and owner Arnab Goswami.
‘Appreciate The Efforts Of Mumbai Police’: BARC
In a statement, BARC India said:
As in all our previous cases of suspected panel homes intrusions, BARC India continues to follow its established vigilance and disciplinary guidelines. BARC remains steadfastly true to its purpose to accurately and faithfully report ‘What India Watches’. BARC India appreciates the efforts of the Mumbai Police and will provide the support asked of it
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