The First Information Report (FIR) with the Mumbai Police included a complaint by an ex-employee of Hansa Research, a field agency of BARC, in which India Today and some other channels were accused of having manipulated TRP data.
On October 8, a revelation by Mumbai Police led to a 'war' between Indian TV news channels when Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh announced that his department was probing allegations of “fixing” television viewership ratings against, in which Republic TV and two other channels are found to be allegedly involved in a television rating points (TRP) fixing scam.
“So far three channels including Republic, Fakt Marathi, and Box Cinema have been found to be indulging in such malpractices,” Commissioner Param Bir Singh said at a press conference.
In the press conference, it was informed that four persons – the owners of the Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema channels, and two former employees of the market research agency that collects the TRP data – have been arrested. Police also added that they were in the process of issuing summons to some senior employees of Republic, including their promoters, to establish if they were aware of the alleged manipulation.
Following this, News channels including NDTV 24×7, Times Now, India Today, Aaj Tak, CNN News18, and ABP News went hammer and tongs after Republic TV, its Hindi sister channel Republic Bharat, and Arnab Goswami, the group’s chairman and editor-in-chief.
However, the main battle started between Republic TV and India Today, as both the channels started naming and shaming at each other.
In an exclusive interview with Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, India Today explained how Republic TV rigged TRPs and how the investigation started.
Soon after the revelation was made, Arnab Goswami came out and dismissed all the claims. The Editor-in-Chief of Republic declared that he would sue the Mumbai Police commissioner and said that he is making false allegations “because we have questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation”.
“Republic will fight back, Republic will continue its investigation into the Sushant Singh Rajput case, the Palghar case, and any other case,” a statement from the channel read.
He also responded in kind, calling out “the 2-3 channels that are instigating this” and saying “people are watching you, beware of their judgment”.
“And for any of those channels who are getting cheap thrills today, I am going to carry out criminal defamation against those channels who are participating in the lie,” he added.
Soon after Republic TV accessed the copy of the FIR filed in the case and claimed that BARC has not mentioned Republic TV in a single complaint and that Republic TV will file a criminal defamation case against the Mumbai Police Commissioner. Republic TV shared a copy of the FIR showing that instead India Today has been named several times in the FIR.
After India Today's name emerged in the complaint filed in the case, a statement was released by Mumbai Police top cop that "India Today was named by one of the witnesses but as the probe progressed neither BARC nor any accused or witness named India Today. They all named Republic TV."
Reportedly, the FIR does not name Republic TV. The complainant also accused India Today channel of indulging in such malpractice. Joint Commissioner of Police Milind Bharambe said although India Today’s involvement has not been substantiated by any of the accused or witnesses, “the accused and witnesses specifically mentioned Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema.”
A video of Republic Media’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami being chased by journalists as he drives out of his home is being widely circulated on social media. The reporters are crowding around his vehicle in the style of usually associated with the Republic TV staff. India Today reported that journalist Mustafa Shaikh was roughed up by security guards.
TRPs claim to show how many people, from which socio-economic categories, watched which channels for how long over a particular time period. TRP data are usually released weekly, and form the basis of claims by channels to being the “most-watched”.
The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), operating under the ministry of information and broadcasting and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, releases weekly rating points for TV channels through 30,000 barometers randomly installed in households across the country. Of those barometers, 2,000 are in Mumbai.
To prevent the data from being manipulated, the locations of these “panel homes” are kept secret. The data is used by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), an industry body owned by advertisers, ad agencies, and broadcasting companies, to calculate the TRP of each channel.
Param Bir Singh said the TRP manipulation racket was busted after the research company, Hansa, which installs and maintains the barometers in the city on behalf of BARC, recently approached the police with the allegation that some of its former employees had compromised the data by allowing certain TV channels accessible to them.
According to the FIR, the racket was underway for at least seven months. It said during a routine audit of households in June this year. Praveen Nijhara, CEO of Hansa Research Pvt Ltd, said the company is ready to cooperate with all agencies if called upon.
All the four accused, who were arrested in the Television Rating Points (TRP) scam case involving the manipulation of the viewership ratings, have been sent to the police custody till October 13.
According to a report by OpIndia, India Today was asked to pay a fine of Rs 5,00,000 in April this year after their explanation did not satisfactorily explain the increase in India Today viewership by the BARC Disciplinary Council. According to the report, since it was the first offence of India Today, they were left with a warning and their license was not cancelled.
OpIndia's report was later confirmed when in a statement issued by India Today regarding the claims made in the fake TRP scam, the news channel has essentially confirmed the OpIndia report on the matter and admitted that they were fined by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). However, they alleged that the action was taken by BARC without any concrete evidence or convening a proper judicial committee.
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