TRP case audit: Mumbai Police say have proof; Republic TV rubbishes it; BARC says not right to comment
The Mumbai Police’s crime branch, which is probing the television rating points (TRP) manipulation case, has claimed that a recent forensic audit conducted by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has brought out a lot of incriminating material, and revealed how data was manipulated to bring Republic TV at the number one position among English news channels.
Joint commissioner of police Milind Bharambe said the data manipulation was mostly done between 2016 and 2019. Forensic auditors appointed by BARC analysed the data of 44 weeks in their audit. He also alleged that it appears from the audit that the ratings were pre-decided and accordingly manipulated.
The number one news channel at the time was thus brought to the second position, said the police.
“Three methods were used for the manipulation, and data was selectively chosen to ascertain and analyse TRP for the particular [accused] channel,” said Bharambe.
Police have also discovered some emails and WhatsApp chats exchanged between the ex-employees of BARC and channels on the BARC servers. Bharambe said one of the chats read, “Please find below numbers on English news, as required. Times Now numbers were changed while Republic remains same”.
Another chat stated: “Pls find below English news channels-Times Now and CNN News 18 –will be changed. The equations of Times Now have decreased drastically across the universe”.
Republic TV in its statement said the claims are “laughable”. In support of its claim, the channel said BARC had sent e-mails to Republic on October 17 and November 20, stating that there was no question of any manipulation by the channel.
“The [forensic report] Mumbai Police is referring to is from July. BARC’s emails to us are from November and December. It defies common sense why BARC would give Republic Media Network a complete clean chit in November and December.”
It has further claimed for the past three months, Mumbai Police has done everything possible to “target” Republic Network, and has “fallen flat” every time. “This ridiculous and bizarre witch-hunt was exposed once again today,” it adds.
A spokesperson from BARC India said, “The development related to the two ex-employees of BARC India is a part of an ongoing investigation for which BARC management continues to extend its support and cooperation to the law enforcement agencies. It would consequently be inappropriate for BARC to comment any further at this stage. Every employee of BARC India is expected to conform to a Code of Conduct & Ethics and any infringement invites suitable disciplinary action. We will continue to ensure that what Indian watches is reported accurately and with utmost integrity. It’s a responsibility we owe all our stakeholders.”
The audit report also mentioned manipulation being done for some entertainment channels.
Meanwhile, Partho Nirmal Dasgupta, former CEO of BARC, who was arrested from Pune on Thursday after his role cropped up during investigation, is also suspected to be involved in manipulation of TRP. Dasgupta worked in from 2013 to 2019. He allegedly misused his position to manipulate TRP of some channels.
He was produced before a magistrate on Friday and has been remanded to police custody till December 28.
“We have got very strong evidence with us against the officials who are responsible for TRP fraud. BARC has cooperated very well and helped in the investigation,” Bharambe added.
The investigation in the case started on October 6. The first charge-sheet has been filed against some of the accused.
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