In its ongoing investigation into the alleged TRP scam, the Enforcement Directorate has found certain households enrolled to measure TV viewership ratings had been paid to watch India Today and News Nation.
The central agency earlier gave a clean chit to Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV, which the Mumbai police had accused of rigging TRPs.
In a chargesheet filed last week, the ED also noted that an investigation by BARC in July 2017 had confirmed that some households were approached by Times Now as well. The “alleged influence was reconfirmed” by another investigation in November 2017, with analysis of data showing an unusual spike in viewership numbers of Times Now.
The “facts remain that there are video recordings of certain households indulging in malpractices with respect to Times Now”, the chargesheet states. In 2017, a show cause notice was issued by BARC to Times Now in this regard as well, and “this indicates certain irregularities vis a vis Times Now, which needs to be properly investigated”.
A statement given to the ED by Niten Deokar, deputy general manager of Hansa Research Group, a company contracted by BARC to measure TRPs, said they visited the empanelled household of Ved Bhandari for a routine audit and found another bar-o-meter, other than the one installed for TRP measurement.
When they asked Ved about it, they were told that Ved’s son Vishal was working with Hansa as a relationship manager. Vishal “admitted” that he was approached by a person called Vinay to convince five households in Mumbai to watch India Today daily for two hours and he was paid Rs 5,000 as “commission” for doing so while each of the households was paid Rs 200. He said he did this between November 2019 and May 2020.
Newslaundry has reached out to Times Now and India Today for comment. This report will be updated if a response is received.
Update: In a statement published to its website earlier today, Times Now said it wished to “empathetically state that the spike in ratings alleged was not abnormal”.
Most of the “purported abnormalities” attributed to the TV news channel’s ratings, it claimed, “can be explained by the use of Landing Pages in such markets”.
“Considering that landing pages are the major marketing boost, they cannot really be referred to as abnormal in real sense," the statement said.
As for the videos of certain households allegedly helping rig the channel’s TRPs, Times Now clarified that it did not have knowledge of or involvement in any “unscrupulous activity” and blamed an unspecific “malicious entity who is trying to spoil our reputation”.