The Mumbai police said that they have busted a racket involving three television news channels for manipulating TRPs (television rating points) for advertising gains, discrepancies, which were spotted by television monitoring agency BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council). While owners of two channels, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema and have already been arrested, Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV is a part of the probe too.
“Certain households were paid to keep their television sets on irrespective of whether they were at home or not, even with some English channels for uneducated individuals,” police commissioner Param Bir Singh said at a press conference on Thursday. TRPs of channels have a direct impact on the advertising rates they get and the total TV advertising industry is valued at ₹30,000-40,000 crore, he said. These individuals were paid anything between ₹400-500 a month to keep their TVs on.
Addressing the press, Singh said that the police had received complaints from BARC India and Hansa – a consumer insights company and one of the vendors of BARC – about “suspicious trends” and activities.
“The advertisers who have paid these channels will be interrogated too to see if they were complicit in this or victims of the fraud,” Singh said. The bank accounts of these channels will be probed and their directors and promoters summoned soon.
In a notice, Mumbai police have said that an accused person named Vishal Ved Bhandari who has been arrested “has revealed that he has induced household members where BARC barometers are installed to watch Republic TV for specific time every day for monetary consideration to increase the viewership of the said channel which resulted into TRP manipulation.”
Calling the allegations false, Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami said the Mumbai police commissioner was coming after them because they had questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case and added that the channel will file a criminal defamation case against him.
“This kind of targeting only strengthens the resolve of everyone at Republic TV to push for the truth even harder. Param Bir Singh stands completely exposed today since BARC has not mentioned Republic in any single complaint,” Goswami tweeted.
In response to Mint’s queries, BARC said it 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,” a BARC India spokesperson said.