Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh on Thursday personally held a press conference to announce an investigation into the alleged “Television Rating Points (TRP) scam” by some television channels. The commissioner named three TV channels, including Republic TV that claims to have the highest TRP among news channels, for their involvement in the alleged scam. Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami dismissed the allegations and said the channel will file a criminal defamation case against the police commissioner.
According to Mr Singh, the police acted on a complaint filed by Hansa Research, a firm appointed by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to monitor barometers used for determining TRP ratings of TV channels. Mr Singh said about 30,000 such meters had been installed across the country including 2,000 in Mumbai. Information about the households where the meters are installed is treated as confidential so that the data isn’t manipulated.
Hansa Research approached the police against some of their ex-employees who could have influenced households where barometers were installed in order to manipulate TRP data. It is a cheating (breach of trust) complaint turned into an FIR, the police commissioner told reporters.
Police have arrested owners of two Marathi channels — Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema — and two former employees of Hansa Research under sections 409 and 420 of IPC.
Mr Singh claimed that Republic TV was also named in a BARC analytical report as a suspect. He said that owner, directors and promoters of Republic TV will also be probed in the case.
However, Repubic TV dismissed the allegations as “false” and said it will file a criminal defamation case against the Mumbai police commissioner. In a statement, Mr Goswami said, “There is not a single BARC report that mentions Republic TV. The people of India know the truth. Mr Parab Bir Singh’s investigation in the Sushant Singh Rajput case is under a cloud and this a desperate measure because of Republic TV’s reportage on Palghar (mob lynching of two Sadhus), the Sushant Singh Rajput case or any other case. This kind of targeting only strengthens the resolve of everyone at Republic TV to push for the truth even harder. Param Bir Singh stands completely exposed today, since BARC has not mentioned Republic in any single complaint. He should issue an official apology and get ready to face us in court.”
Mr Singh said bank accounts of these channels are also being probed and people responsible for the TRP racket are being summoned by the police for further investigation. “Based on these TRP ratings, advertisers pay to advertise on these channels and it is a game of thousands of crores. Manipulated TRP ratings result in miscalculated targeted audience and loss of hundreds of crores of rupees for the advertisers. We are also probing if the fund which came to these channels is from proceeds of the crime. Action will be taken accordingly,” he said.
Mr Singh said that a set of households where barometers were installed were paid money to tune to a particular channel. In one case, Mumbai’s top police officer said, investigators found that a household comprising people who were not literate always had an English news channel switched on. The households were paid about Rs 400-500 every month, the police commissioner said.
“We suspect that if this was happening in Mumbai then it could be happening in other parts of the country as well,” Mr Singh added.