TRP fraud: Republic TV’s chief financial officer, 2 others summoned by Mumbai Police
Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV, put out a video message on the channel’s website denying the allegations and stating the “channel’s name was not mentioned in the FIR”.Updated: Oct 10, 2020, 06:08 IST
A day after the television rating points (TRP) fraud was unearthed, the Mumbai Police on Friday summoned Shiva Sundaram, chief financial officer (CFO) of Republic TV, Sam Balsara, founder, chairman and managing director of Madison World, and Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands, to record their statements at the crime branch office in south Mumbai at 11am on Saturday.
The Mumbai Police on Thursday said TRPs were being manipulated by at least three channels and arrested four men, contending that the manipulated audience numbers were crucial because they directly translated into advertising revenue. The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has contracted Hansa Research Private Limited to monitor various channels and programmes through 30,000 barometers installed across India, based on which the council awards ratings to channels. Of the 30,000, 2,000 barometers are installed in Mumbai, which are handled by 20 relationship managers. “While investigating a complaint filed by Hansa group on October 6, we found some channels were paying former Hansa employees. They, in turn, were paying certain households to keep certain channels like Republic switched on to show higher TRPs,” Mumbai’s police commissioner Param Bir Singh said on Thursday, adding that apart from Republic, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema were also found to be gaming the system. According to the latest TRP ratings, Republic is the most watched English language news channel.
Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV, put out a video message on the channel’s website denying the allegations and stating the “channel’s name was not mentioned in the FIR”. He claimed the channel was being targeted for its coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput case, and added that the channel would sue the police.
Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner of police (crime), said, “The trio has been called to record their statements under section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code.” Calls and text messages to Sundaram went unanswered. Sinha said, “Mumbai Police have called me to be present at their office. I have no idea what they have called me for what they will ask me, so I can’t say anything as of now. I will go and meet them.” Balsara said, “I am a client of BARC. Mumbai Police has requested my help to aid the investigation, which I am happy to do.”
Meanwhile, Mumbai Police produced the four arrested accused – Vishal Bhandari, 20, Bompalli Rao Mistry alias Sanjiv Rao, 44, and owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema, Shirish Shetty and Narayan Sharma, respectively – before Esplanade court which remanded them in police custody till October 13.
Nitin Deokar, deputy general manager of Hansa Research Private Limited, who filed the complaint at Kandivli police station, had alleged in his compliant that Bhandari was working as a relationship manager in his organisation from November 2019 to May 2020. Deokar in his complaint stated that during an internal inquiry, they found that Bhandari used to take money from one Vinay Tripathi, a wanted accused, and used to pay households where barometer was installed and asked them to allegedly watch India Today.
Param Bir Singh on Friday clarified that there was no evidence against India Today. “Hansa Research Private Limited received a complaint against Bhandari, stating he was paying several households to tune into certain channels. India Today’s name came during their internal inquiry based on which an FIR was filed. We took Bhandari’s custody and have recorded the statements of witnesses. We have not found any evidence to substantiate the claim that India Today was involved in manipulating TRPs,” said Singh.
“During further inquiry, Bhandari took the name of Rao and said he was currently working for him. Rao is in direct contact with several owners of channels and is involved in manipulating TRPs,” said a crime branch officer. “When Mumbai Police visited the residence of one of the viewers mentioned in the FIR, Kandivli resident Tejal Solanki, in whose house a barometer was installed, we found that India Today was not subscribed. During the inquiry, Solanki and a senior citizen in her residence told us they were asked to watch Republic TV,” said a crime branch officer.