TRP manipulation case: SIT arrests former BARC COO

This is the 14th arrest made by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which is probing the case
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Representational Image.
Updated on Dec 17, 2020 04:23 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Mumbai | ByVijay Kumar Yadav

Mumbai Police crime branch has arrested Romil Ramgarhia, the former chief operating officer of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) for his alleged involvement in the Television Rating Points (TRP) fraud.

This is the 14th arrest made by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which is probing the case. The TRP fraud case is based on the complaint filed by BARC through Hansa Research Group.

A crime branch officer confirmed the arrest, but did not specify Ramgarhia’s role in the case. Police sources said that the accused was well aware of wrongdoings related to TRP manipulation.

According to the Mumbai Police, TRP ratings, which decide who will get the biggest share of advertisements, were being manipulated by three channels.

Some families, at whose houses barometers were installed for collecting data of viewership, were being bribed to watch a particular channel to boost its TRP.

In a press conference, Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh had claimed that two regional channels and Republic TV were suspected to be involved in the manipulation.

Later, 13 people were arrested by the SIT in connection with the manipulation. Arrested accused involved executives of the channels.

SIT recently also arrested Republic Television chief executive officer (CEO) Vikas Khanchandani. Later, he secured bail in the matter.

Republic TV’s distribution head Ghanshyam Dilipkumar Singh was also arrested in the past. Singh has allegedly paid monthly Rs15 lakh for seven months to a vendor to boost viewership of his channel, claimed the crime branch in their remand copy filed before the court. Police also claimed that hawala channels were also used for these transactions.

Singh’s name cropped up in the investigation while officials were probing the role of Abhishek Kolawade alias Ajit alias Amit alias Mhadik, who worked as a vendor for many channels and was arrested on October 31.

Mumbai Police has earlier informed the court that Kolawade’s sustained interrogation revealed that to amplify TRP of Republic TV, he received Rs15 lakh per month from Singh between January 2020 and July 2020. He received some of this money through hawala.

The remand copy added that Kolawade gave part of this money to Ramji Varma, Dinesh Vishwakarma and Umesh Mishra to further pay to the families whose houses were selected for installing a barometer with an instructions to watch Republic TV channels.

Many unlawful financial transactions surfaced during the investigations of Mumbai Crime Branch, which perhaps also prompted Enforcement Directorate to launch a parallel probe to investigate possible money laundering in the TRP manipulation.

Previously, Republic TV had said that Mumbai Police is attacking it through fake TRP case probe.

Recently, the SIT has also filed a charge sheet in the case, detailing the roles of arrested accused. The SIT would be filing a supplementary charge sheet in the case which would also include the report of forensic auditor tracing the money trail.

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