The crime branch of the Mumbai police has claimed to have busted a major TRP manipulation racket in the city. The police said Republic TV and two Marathi entertainment channels, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema, are involved in this scam.
In a press conference held today, Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh said the owners of the two Marathi channels have been arrested, while the owner of Republic TV will be summoned for questioning.
TRPs, or television rating points, are a metric used to measure viewership of channels or programmes. They're measured based on barometers installed in some households. Based on the TRPs, advertisers pay channels to run their advertisements.
In a press release issued today as well, the Mumbai police claimed that Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Republic TV paid money to homeowners in whose houses barometers were installed, in order to "manipulate" the ratings by keeping their televisions tuned to the particular channel. Homeowners were paid Rs 400-500 per month, the police alleged.
The police said said "crores of rupees" were made by the channels on the basis of these manipulated TRPs.
In the press conference, the police said its investigation began after a complaint was filed by Hansa, a research company contracted by the Broadcast Audience Research Council. Hansa is entrusted with the maintenance of 30,000 barometers across the country, of which 2,000 are in Mumbai. The data of the "compromised households" was handed to the police by the BARC.
The first arrest was reportedly made in Malad, of an employee of Hansa. Other accused include Hansa employees who misused confidential data, the police said, some of whom have "absconded". It was done for "wrongful gains of various TV channels", police commissioner Singh said, which resulted in "wrongful loss to various advertisers and their agencies".
"Preliminary investigations 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 channels," the police said. "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 [them]."
An offence has been registered at the Kandivali police station.
Stating that the owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema have been arrested, the police said there are "chances that [their] promoters and directors also indulged in this malpractice, and further investigation will happen against them".
The police will also examine the bank accounts of the three channels. "If we come to know that these funds were received from the proceeds of crime, we can also take the action to seize them," the police said.
Following the press conference, Republic's editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami issued a statement saying that Singh had made "false allegations" because the channel had "questioned him" in the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation. The statement said that Republic will file a criminal defamation case against Singh.
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