‘TRP Rating’ Case: ED Attaches Properties of 3 Television Channels

The ED probe has revealed that the proceeds of crime for these channels are to the tune of Rs 46 crore.

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Swinging into action into the alleged TRP case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday, 17 March, said that it has attached assets to the tune of Rs 32 crore of television channels Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema, and Maha Movie in Delhi, Indore, Mumbai, and Gurugram.

An ED official in Delhi said that the financial probe agency has attached the properties of three channels in the form of land, commercial, and residential units and balances in bank accounts under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The official added that the ED probe has revealed that the proceeds of crime for these channels are to the tune of Rs 46 crore. They further registered a case on the basis of an FIR registered by Mumbai Police into the alleged TRP case.

The ED official further said that the money laundering probe has revealed that devices called Bar-O-Meters were installed at certain places or households – approximately 1,800 in Mumbai and a total of 44,000 across India – on a proportionate basis to mimic the viewership pattern of 197 million Indian households for capturing viewership of various channels of different genres and languages to calculate the TRP.

He further added that these barometers are installed for broadcast audio research council (BARC) by Hansa. Employees (relationship managers) of Hansa install and service the device, and BARC decides the household, where the Bar-o-meter is to be installed.

The TRP indicates popularity of a TV channel or a programme and also enables advertisers to understand viewership patterns. TRP becomes an important basis on which advertisement is allocated to any channel and determines the revenue generation of a Television channel. Thus, manipulation of TRP becomes a tool for generating greater advertisement revenue.

The official said, "During the course of investigation, it was found that the confidential information of the households where the Bar-O-Meters were installed was revealed by the Relationship Managers to various unscrupulous elements for financial gains.

The ED official further revealed, “The households were subsequently bribed and induced to watch specific channels, which fraudulently enhanced the television rating points (TRP) for the channel and on the basis of rigged TRP, advertisers were deceived and advertised on the channel which would not have happened otherwise.”

He said, "Investigations revealed that Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema, and Maha Movie entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat and committed the offence of criminal breach of trust, forgery in order to gain wrongfully by manipulating TRPs of these Television Channels. Thus, by fraudulently enhancing the TRP ratings, these channels have garnered enhanced advertisement revenue."

For two of these channels, just five compromised households were contributing to approximately 25 percent of the viewership of Mumbai for the relevant period and for the third channel, five compromised households were contributing to approximately 12 percent of viewership of Mumbai.

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