Mumbai: One of the suspected arrested by Mumbai police in the TRP manipulation scam has confessed that he had been “accepting money” from a Mumbai based news organisations Republic TV and News Nation to “distribute among households” who were asked to “keep certain channels on”.
In a statement issued by Mumbai police, a report by Times of India said that the accused identified as Abhishek Kolwade, who runs a marketing firm named Max Media, was the 10th person arrested in the case.
“The tenth person arrested is a resident of Thane. During the course of the investigation, he has confessed that he has been accepting money from at least two news channels (Republic and News Nation) and used to pay certain households through his associates,” the report said quoting police statement.
The statement added that two of his associates were arrested earlier and that three other channels — Box Cinema, Fakt Marathi and Maha Movie — are also being investigated for inflating viewership figures.
Investigations have revealed that a “money trail” between a Hansa group company and ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, the company operating Republic TV.
According to police, these “transactions” with “suspect channels” was not revealed to the special investigation team (SIT) by “any of the witnesses from any of the Hansa Group companies”, according to the press release.
Republic has, however, countered the allegation saying the payment made by Hansa Vision to Republic is “in lieu of on-air advertising” done for the period October 2017 to October 2018.
“These facts are completely legitimate and in the open, backed by way of documentation for every transaction relating to it. Advertising contracts and payments thereby are a norm in the broadcast news industry and not an illegality.” the TV channel was quoted saying in the report.
In order to track India’s viewership, Hansa had been contracted by Broadcasting Audience Research Council (BARC) to “install bar-o-meters in homes”.
The police said that some households in Mumbai, where these meters were installed, have accepted that they have been “paid for keeping certain channels on”.
Police said a team of forensic auditors have been involved to assist the SIT in the investigation into manipulation of viewership figures by channels in order to get “extract better rates for advertisements”.
“Many of the arrested suspects and some wanted-accused were employees of Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd, who have misused confidential data entrusted to them”, the police statement mentioned.
“This was done to benefit the channels under probe and resulted in losses to advertisers and their agencies,” it added.