Mumbai Police Busts ‘TRP Scam’, Names Republic, 2 Marathi Channels

Claiming that TV ratings were manipulated, the cops have arrested four people in the matter.

Updated
India
4 min read
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.
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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".

In a statement released soon after the briefing, BARC 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.”

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.

In a video statement after the press briefing by Mumbai Police, Goswami reiterated his intention of filing a criminal defamation case “against the desperate commissioner of Mumbai, Paramvir Singh.”

Goswami further alleged that Singh had been targeting Republic TV over their coverage of several news topics.

“Parambir Singh thinks that he can stop the coverage in the Sushant Singh Rajput Singh case. I want you to ask Paramvir Singh today what he is so scared about? Paramvir Singh is scared about some truth coming out in the Sushant Singh Rajput case. He first targeted Republic for the Palghar investigation. Then Parambir Singh targeted us for the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation.”
Arnab Goswami, in a video statement

He also went on to address the viewers of Republic TV, saying that together, they needed to "fight people like the Maharasthra government and the Mumbai Police who think they can silence us”, saying that Republic TV was the only channel in India exposing the truth.

Goswami also attacked the Mumbai Police chief over his alleged attempts to close the investigation into the death of Rajput, claiming that it failed because Republic TV “put out the counterfacts in the case”.

Repeating his threat that he would sue Singh for criminal defamation and for “trying to besmudge the hard earned reputation of the Republic media network”, Goswami added that he would also sue “every single media channel because this is all playing out in rivals’ hands.”

Goswami also stated that the channel would not give up its “fight” in the case of Rajput’s death or the Palghar case.

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