Mumbai police on Thursday claimed to have busted a Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation racket, adding four persons have been arrested in this case.
Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh told reporters that Republic TV, a national TV news channel facing flak over its attack on Mumbai police and Maharashtra government in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, was involved in the racket.
TRP is a tool to judge which TV programmes are viewed the most and also indicates the viewers' choice and popularity of a particular channel.
The Mumbai police crime branch, which unearthed the TRP racket, has arrested owners of two Marathi channels, for manipulating viewership ratings, the official said.
Republic TV is also involved in the TRP racket and persons responsible for this will also be arrested, whether one is director, promoter or any other employee of the channel, the police commissioner said. The channel owner, directors and promoters will also be probed, he added.
The channel, in a statement, rubbished Singh's claims.
Bank accounts of these channels are also being probed and people responsible for the TRP racket are being summoned by police for further investigation in the case, he said.
"Based on these TRP ratings, advertisers pay to advertise on these channels and it is a game of thousands of crore," Singh said.
Manipulated TRP ratings result in miscalculated targeted audience for the advertisers, he said, adding this results in losses of hundreds of crores of rupees because of such manipulations and fake statistics of TRPs. TRP is calculated on the basis of TV channel viewership in a confidential set of households.
Singh said those involved in the racket would bribe people in these households and ask them to keep some channels switched on even when they weren't watching or not at home.
The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) releases weekly rating points for TV channels in India and its officials are also being questioned in connection with the case, he said.
There are 2,000 barometers installed in Mumbai to monitor TRPs, he said, adding BARC gave contract to an agency called 'Hansa' for monitoring these barometers.
The two channel owners arrested were produced in court and Mumbai police have got their custody, he said. The arrests were made under sections 409 and 420 of IPC, he added.
"We suspect that if this was happening in Mumbai then it could be happening in other parts of the country as well," he added.
BARC is an industry body set up to design, commission, supervise and own an accurate, reliable and timely TV audience measurement system and is guided by recommendations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. It helps provide data points to plan media spends more effectively.
Hansa filed a complaint of the TRP racket, following which an offence was registered, he said.
"During the investigation it came to light that some former employees of the agency were involved in compromising the data and they were sharing it with some television companies," he said.
It was revealed that these persons had manipulated the sampling metering services by inducing the barometer users through periodical payments to watch particular TV channels, he said.
Many people in whose homes these barometers have been installed, have accepted that they were getting monetary benefit for keeping their TV sets on even when they did not watch it, the IPS officer said.
This was apparently done for "wrongful gains" of some TV channels and resulted in losses to advertisers and their agencies, he said.
Republic Media Network's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami's statement pic.twitter.com/axhbJZ47eA— Republic (@republic) October 8, 2020
The statement by the editor-in-chief of Republic TV, Arnab Goswami, said the Mumbai police chief has made false claims against it as the channel had questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation.
The news channel said it will file a criminal defamation case against Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh. BARC has not mentioned the channel even in a single complaint, it said, adding Singh should issue an official apology and get ready to face the channel in court.