India

Police summons Republic TV for ‘paying households’ to manipulate TRPs, spreading ‘fake narratives’

New Delhi: As investigation regarding the three TV channels for allegedly gaming ratings and using them to spread fake narratives and gain ad revenues is going on, Mumbai Police on Friday summoned the CFO of Republic TV Sundaram S in connection with the scam.

The two other TV channels under scrutiny are – Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema, reports said quoting police officials. Republic TV was among the three channels being investigated for allegedly gaming ratings and using them to spread fake narratives and gain ad revenues, the Mumbai police.

TRP is defined as a tool to judge which TV programmes are viewed the most and also indicates the viewers’ choice and popularity of a particular channel.

On Thursday, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh revealed that these channels were trying to manipulate the TRPs with the help of an organisation named ‘Hansa’. The organisation reportedly helps these channels in trying to manipulate the TRPs.

“Around 2,000 barometers installed in Mumbai were being used to manipulate TRPs,” Singh had said, according to a ToI report.

“Some people would visit households on behalf of these channels and give them money every month. People were asked to constantly operate these channels,” the senior police official was quoted saying in the same report.

The owners of the two Marathi channels have already been arrested.

A remand note in the case has now also revealed that accused Vishal Bhandari is engaged in financial transactions to manipulate viewership of the news channels.

The key accused in the case named India Today, while the news channel has been mentioned around three to four times in the Mumbai Police’s remand note.

Four people were arrested in connection with the case, including two ex-employees of Hansa Research Group and two owners of the two regional channels.

Bhandari reportedly got a commission of Rs 5,000, and five families were paid every month to tune in to Indian Today for 2 hours every day for a sell-out price of Rs 200 per day, whether or not they were watching or at home, a report by Times Now said.

Commissioner Singh earlier said that the accounts of Republic TV and the others could be frozen if it was established that the channels made advertising money using rigged ratings.

The Mumbai Police FIR names India Today, but Commissioner Param Bir Singh clarified to NDTV, “In the FIR, India Today was named by one of the witnesses. But as the probe progressed neither BARC, nor witnesses, nor accused named India Today. All named Republic TV, Marathi channels. As of now no evidence against India Today. We are proceeding against Republic TV, Marathi channels.”

The rating scam emerged during a larger analysis of the manipulation of news trends and how a “false narrative” was being spread, especially in connection with the probe into Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, Singh said while addressing a gathering of reporters in Mumbai.

“The biggest name to emerge is Republic TV,” said the police chief.

The bank accounts of the channels will be investigated and besides the funds, they receive from advertisers and “whether they are from proceeds of crimes”. More channels could also be examined, Singh said.

Asked whether the inquiry would include Arnab Goswami, the Editor-in-Chief of Republic, the police chief said: “Anyone involved in the channel, no matter how much in the top, how senior, will be questioned, and if involved they will be investigated. No one, no matter how senior, will escape.”

 

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