Mumbai Police charges top employees of Republic TV, BARC of conspiracy to manipulate TRP data
The viewership rating of Times Now, which was higher than Republic, was deliberately manipulated to increase the viewership rating of Republic channels, the police has claimed
Mumbai Police has filed a supplementary chargesheet in the TRP scam case stating that Vikas S Khanchandani, CEO of Republic TV’s parent company ARG Outlier Media and former officials of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Romil V Ramgarhia and Partho Dasgupta conspired to manipulate viewership data so as to procure more revenue from advertisements on their channels.
The chargesheet states that the Khanchandani along with Priya Mukherjee, Chief Operating Officer of ARG, carried out transactions in order to ensure that more viewers watch their channels - Republic TV (English) and Republic Bharat (Hindi). The same was discovered through their WhatsApp group chats.
It further states that the Republic channels have been allegedly flouting the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regulations by paying cable operators and multi-system operators for using the 'dual/promotional local channel number' to telecast their news channels on more than a single channel, Bar & Bench reported.
The chargesheet alleges that Ramgarhia misused his position as Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of BARC to aid Republic channels to manipulate their TRPs.
Ramgarhia allegedly conducted internal inquiries into BARC through an independent company 'Acquisitory Risk Consulting Pvt Ltd.' which gave Ramgarhia and his co-accused insight into the working of TRP calculation.
The investigation also cites emails found in Ramgarhia’s work account which discussed how the BARC data is aiding Republic channels though TRP manipulation.
The viewership rating of Times Now, which was higher than Republic, was deliberately manipulated to increase the viewership rating of Republic channels, the police has claimed.
The chargesheet has declared Partho Dasgupta to be the mastermind of the TRP scam. During his tenure as the Chief Executive Officer of BARC, he allegedly used his position to aid ARG Outlier to manipulate the TRP ratings, says the chargesheet.
As reported earlier by National Herald, the Mumbai Police claims that during its investigation, it came across evidence that showed Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami had paid Dasgupta in return for his assistance in manipulating the TRPs.
The evidence, they claim, was the gold and precious items which Dasgupta allegedly purchased with the money received from Goswami. The items were discovered during the search and seizure carried out at Dasgupta’s residence.
Apart from the specifics of the three accused, the supplementary chargesheet cites 59 witnesses, which includes 12 expert witnesses (forensic auditors, computer forensics auditors).
The Crime Branch has managed to seize property worth approximately Rs 50 lakh, which includes personal computers, laptops, mobile phones, jewellery and watches, it was claimed.
The Crime Branch filed its first chargesheet in November 2020 which included details of the first twelve accused. The Crime Branch initiated the investigation in the TRP scam after it discovered, through certain employees of the Hansa Group, that ‘sampling metering services’ were being manipulated by paying people to watch particular TV channels.
A rise in TRPs was, thereby, allegedly achieved by paying money to the television viewers whose houses had barometers installed.
The viewers watched the specified channels for longer hours to show an escalated viewership of the channel, it is alleged.