Owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema have been arrested and charged, says city police chief.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh on Thursday said a Television Rating Point (TRP) racket has been busted by the Detection Crime Branch, involving Republic TV, Box Cinema and Fakt Marathi.
Owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema have been arrested and charged with sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent) of the Indian Penal Code, Mr. Singh told reporters.
He explained that the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) was an organisation that functioned under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. It claimed that it powered ₹32,000-crore Indian TV ad industry by providing sharp insights. It had installed approximately 30,000 barometers in various parts of the country to monitor various programmes and based on the statistical metrics.
“In the preliminary enquiry, one person was arrested and he has revealed that he had been working for a company called Hansa Research Group Private Limited, which is a part of the BARC. The accused said the company has misused confidential data, which had been entrusted to them. It has apparently been done for wrongful gains of various TV channels, which had resulted in wrongful loss to various advertisers and their agencies,” Mr. Singh said.
“Hansa’s ex-employee and his companion were arrested and ₹20 lakh were found along with Rs 8.5 lakh in the bank locker. Around ₹400-500 was given to several households on monthly basis. They were produced in court and the police have got their custody till October 9,” he stated
A press release from the police says, “Preliminary investigation also revealed that these accused persons have manipulated the sampling metering services by inducing the barometer users by paying them periodically to watch particular TV channel/s. Many of the people in whose homes these barometers have been installed, have accepted that they have been monetarily beneficial for keeping their TV sets on even if they actually didn’t watch.”
Mr. Singh said, “The money involved can be in hundreds of crores, which are proceeds of crime. We need to find out where is the money, in which accounts and who are the beneficiaries. We will forensically examine them and might freeze the money and accounts if needed.”
He observed, “We will examine directors, promoters, employees, those who look after advertising, distribution and funding of Republic TV. We will examine all the aspects and summon everyone involved in this. We will also call some advertisers they might be a complicit or a victim of this.”
He noted, “BARC submitted their analytical report and found suspicious trends of TRPs on Republic TV. We called some customers who were approached and manipulated and they admitted that they were given money to operate a particular channel all day.”
Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami released a statement on social media that said, “Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh has made false allegations against Republic TV because we have questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation. Republic TV will file a criminal defamation case against Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh. There is not a single BARC report that mentions Republic TV. The people of India know the truth. Mr Param Bir Singh’s investigation in the Sushant Singh Rajput case is under a cloud and this is a desperate measure because of Republic TV’s reportage on Palghar, The Sushant Singh Rajput case of any other case. 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. He should issue an official apology and get ready to face us in court.”
BARC, in a statement, said: “As in all our previous cases of suspected panel homes intrusions, BARC India 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.
(With inputs from Lalatendu Mishra)