Mumbai cops take first step in probe against Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV
The Mumbai Police has summoned the chief financial officer (CFO) of Republic TV, Shiva Sundaram, the founder, chairman and managing director of Madison World, Sam Balsara, and the CEO of IPG Mediabrands, Shashi Sinha, to record their statements in connection with the TRP-fixing racket they claim to have busted.
“They have been called to record their statement under section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code,” said joint commissioner of police (Crime), Milind Bharambe. Calls and text messages to Shiva Sundaram of Republic TV remained unanswered.
Sinha and Balsara, both top media planners and buyers, have likely been called as experts.
“Mumbai Police has called me to be present at their office. I have no idea regarding what they have called me or what they will ask me. So, I cannot say anything as of now. I will go and meet them tomorrow,” said Sinha.
Sam Balsara said: “I am a client of BARC. Mumbai police has requested my help to aid the investigation which I am happy to do.”
BARC stands for Broadcast Audience Research Council. On Thursday, Mumbai Police said it arrested a former executive for Hansa Research, contracted by BARC to run its audience measurement service by installing barometers in households across the city. They also arrested three others, including two owners of small local channels. In a press conference on Thursday, Mumbai Police named Republic TV, which denied the charges and said it would sue the police. Republic also showed on its channel a copy of the FIR that names not it but India Today TV. Republic TV said it was being targeted for its pursuit of the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
The four arrested , Vishal Bhandari, Bompalli Rao Mistry alias Sanjiv Rao, 44, and owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema channels Shirish Shetty and Narayan Sharma were produced before the court on Friday, and remanded to police custody till October 13.
Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh said there was no evidence against India Today. “Hansa Research Private Limited conducted an internal inquiry of arrested accused Vishal Bhandari, after they received a complaint stating that he was paying several households to tune into certain channels. India Today’s name came during their internal enquiry based on which an FIR was filed at Kandivali police station on October 6. We took Bhandari’s custody and have recorded the statements of witnesses and we have not found any evidence to substantiate the claim that India Today was involved in manipulating TRPs,” said Singh.
TRPs or television rating points are a reflection of how many people watch a channel and is used by media buyers and planners to decide which channels they will advertise in.
Bhandari has named only three channels Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Republic Bharat TV till now, said a crime branch officer who asked not to be named. According to Hansa Research , approximately 30,000 barometers are installed across India to monitor various channels and programmes based on which BARC awards ratings to channels. Of the 30,000, 2,000 barometers are installed in Mumbai .
Nitin Deokar, deputy general manager of Hansa Research Private Limited who filed the complaint at Kandivali police station, said in it that Bhandari was working as a relationship manager with the firm from November 2019 to May 2020. These relationship managers were tasked with overseeing a certain number of households with barometers. Deokar in his complaint stated that during an internal inquiry they found that Bhandari used to pay households to watch India Today.
“But during inquiry, we did not find any evidence. And when we visited the residence of Tajal Solanki in Kandivali area where a barometer was installed, we found that India Today was not subscribed at all. During the inquiry, Solanki and a senior citizen in her residence told us that they were asked to watch Republic TV,” added the crime branch officer.