TRP scam case: Times group plans to take legal action against BARC

Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd. (BCCL) is a subscriber of viewership data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), for its channels including "Times Now" operating under Times Network
As evidence of massive television rating points (TRP) fraud was unearthed by the Mumbai police, the Times Network and its parent, Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd (BCCL) said that they planning to take legal action against Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) - responsible for TRPs in India -- for massive loss caused to the network.

Former CEO of BARC, Partho Dasgupta is already in jail along with several top executives of Republic TV – which, as per Mumbai police, benefitted due to the TRP manipulation by BARC top officials.

 
In a statement, the Times Network said it also intends to initiate appropriate proceedings against the individual perpetrators of the fraud as per provisions of criminal and civil laws. The network said due to unacceptable and unpardonable act of BARC, it has suffered huge financial losses and irreparable damage to its reputation/ goodwill. 

Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd. (BCCL) is a subscriber of viewership data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), for its channels including "Times Now" operating under Times Network.

‘’Since 2017 and especially after the launch of Republic TV in May 2017, BCCL/ Times Network suspected large scale manipulation of ratings pertaining to illegal usage of multiple LCNs and out of EPG placement by Republic TV. We also found significant abnormalities in market wise ratings of that channel clearly indicating ground level tampering and/ or deliberate intervention at the raw data level to favour them. Times Network repeatedly complained about these irregularities to BARC for almost two years but got no resolution as the complaints routinely resulted in stock replies,” TN said.

The press statement of Joint Commissioner (Crimes) of Mumbai Police on December 25 last year as part of the ongoing investigation into the BARC TRP scam, made it clear that proof had been unearthed exposing manipulation by BARC officials for the benefit of Republic TV in 2017/18, the network said. As per BARC’s forensic audit of July 2020, as well as the multiple emails and WhatsApp chats of that period, which has now been accessed by Mumbai Police, it is now clear that Times Now's TRPs were indeed manually reduced by BARC officials headed by the then CEO, Partho Dasgupta and Romil Ramgarhia before publishing, with the intention to give undue advantage to Republic TV in the English news genre and thereby fraudulently declare Republic TV as No.1, even when Times Now was consistently higher by a large margin and was the undisputed leader of the Genre, it said.

BARC’s culpability is compounded in that even after unearthing this gross misreporting of an entire genre for a protracted period vide the forensic audit report of July last year, leading to significant financial distress for Times Network, BARC’s present management and the board kept this matter under wraps and took no action against any of the perpetrators other than asking some of the errant officials to silently resign.

‘’The inaction as far as we can see is systemic and deliberate, as had it not been for the Mumbai Police investigators who stumbled upon this report in December 2020, BARC had no intention in the first place to either inform us as affected party or penalise the fraudulent broadcaster. This constitutes moral turpitude, breach of trust and puts a question on Code of conduct and ethical standards of the present BARC board and Management. It is worth pondering as to whether such a board and management can indeed preside over a system which puts out ratings that impact ad spends worth over Rs 30,000 crores per annum and impacts the livelihood of thousands of employees engaged in the broadcast sector, it said.

Multiple attempts from Times Network to get an official statement of explanation from BARC in the last few weeks have been rebuffed. And hence the legal action, TN said.

 


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