The Mumbai police Thursday claimed to have busted a ‘major racket’ which was “fraudulently involved in manipulating Television Ratings Points (TRP)” of TV channels, including Republic TV. Four persons have been arrested in the case.
Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh said so far, three channels including Republic, Fakt Marathi, and Box Cinema were found to be indulging in such malpractices.
Singh said that barometers to measure TRP’s are kept at several undisclosed houses across the country, based on which the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) measures TRPs of channels.
“We found that some channels were paying former employees of agency Hansa Research Group- contracted by BARC to carry out the research. They in turn were paying certain households selected as barometers for calculating TRPs to keep certain channels like Republic switched on to show higher TRPs,” Singh said.
He further said some households were being paid as much as Rs 500 per day to keep particular channels on. “In some cases, people who did not understand English were keeping English channels like Republic on through the day. We have recorded their statements,” the Commissioner said.
As per police, it was Hansa and BARC that first spotted “unusual trends” in TRPs following which they approached the police. The crime branch then registered an FIR at Kandivali police station on charges of cheating and criminal breach of trust, following which they arrested a former employee of Hansa and his associate.
The police found Rs 20 lakh from his bank account and Rs 8.5 lakh from his locker which Singh said “was to be paid to people to keep particular channels on”.
Based on their questioning, the police today arrested the owners of Box Cinema and Fakt Marathi channels. “We have also summoned the employee of Republic to understand who was involved at what level,” Singh said.
“The money earned through advertisements by these channels through fake TRPs will be considered proceeds of crime. Once we find the accounts where the money was transferred, we will get them frozen,” he added.
The Commissioner said that by manipulating TRPs, the accused caused losses to advertisers and other news channels who would suffer from lower TRPs as compared to these channels. “The TV advertisement industry is worth 30000 – 40000 crores,” he said.
BARC, that functions under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has installed approximately 30,000 barometers in various parts of the country based on which it awards ratings to various TV channels. Based on these ratings, advertisers pay for their advertisement.
Republic TV soon put out a statement denying the allegations, saying it will file criminal defamation case against the Mumbai Police Commissioner. “Republic will fight back, Republic will continue its investigation into the Sushant Singh Rajput case, the Palghar case and any other case,” the statement read.