Mumbai Police names Republic TV in TRP racket, Goswami threatens defamation

Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh addressing the media on Thursday | PTI
Mumbai Police on Thursday claimed to have busted a Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation racket, and said it had arrested four persons in the case.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh told reporters that Republic TV channel, facing flak over its attack on Mumbai Police and Maharashtra government in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, was among the three channels involved in the racket. Those responsible, he added, would be arrested, be it a director, promoter or any other employee of the channel.

Singh said the Mumbai Police crime branch, which unearthed the racket, had arrested the owners of two Marathi channels — Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema. Another police official said two former employees of Hansa agency, involved in the process to determine the TRPs, had also been arrested. The bank accounts of these channels are being probed, the police chief said. 

TRP is a tool to judge which TV programmes are viewed the most and also indicates the viewers’ choice and popularity of a particular channel. It is calculated in a confidential set of households. Singh said those involved in the racket would bribe people in these households and ask them to keep some channels switched on even when they weren’t watching them or were not at home.

The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) releases weekly rating points for TV channels in India and its officials are also being questioned, he said. There are 2,000 barometers installed in Mumbai to monitor TRPs, he said, adding BARC gave contract to Hansa agency for monitoring these barometers.

Hansa filed a complaint of the TRP racket, following which a case was registered, he said.  

According to a BARC analytical report, there were “suspicious changes” in the TRPs, he said. “We will also investigate how many TRP points were manipulated and what effect it had on advertisements,” he said. 

Republic TV, in a statement, rubbished Singh’s claims. Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the channel, said the Mumbai Police chief had “made false allegations against Republic TV because we have questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation”. Goswami said the channel will file a criminal defamation case against the Mumbai police commissioner. BARC has not mentioned the channel even in a single complaint, he said, adding Singh should “issue an official apology and get ready to face us in court”.

Industry concerned

K V Sridhar, global chief creative officer, Nihilent Hypercollective: “The scandal has come at a time when advertisers were beginning to increase spends and there was an uptick in the marketplace. Where do advertisers go if there is manipulation of viewership data? Crores of advertising money is at stake here.”

K S Chakravarthy, co-founder and chief creative officer, Tidal7 Brand and Digital: “What is the option for advertisers in the event a bigger scandal unfolds? The industry is structured in such a way that there is need for some viewership measurement to decide where to park advertising money. The irony is that there is no substitute to this system. At one level, the unearthing of this manipulation by a few channels may clean up the system. But there is no alternative to viewership data.”

BARC India spokesperson: “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.”

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel