Sometimes we, human beings, tend to assume that what we cannot see, doesn’t really exist. But, is that so? Well, No. At least, this is what the TRP scam 2020 suggests. Even 20 months after the TRP scam came to light, some news channels are still suspected to undertake set-up box tampering. TFI has learnt that some channels, which were even named in the Mumbai Police FIR in October 2020, may still be tampering with boxes. Republic, India Today & India TV may still be on the radar. So, was 2020 the last we heard of the TRP scam or is it still continuing?
Set up box tampering continues unabated?
Just when we thought that the scam is now over, the chatter suggests that some news channels are still suspected to undertake set up box tampering. The location of these boxes still remains the same and those channels who had access to this confidential information because of their proximity to former BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta may still control the location data.
Channels that were named in the Mumbai police FIR in 2020 such as Republic and India Today group, along with India TV may still be on the radar.
It is pertinent to note that India TV, last month, announced the appointment of Priya Mukherjee as Group President- Network Development. Priya Mukherjee, notably, is one of the accused in the chargesheet filed over the alleged television rating points (TRP) rigging scam. Interestingly, the channel’s reach and ratings have started increasing since Priya joined the team. India TV’s dramatically increasing TRP is quite evident in BARC’s rating.
As per a broadcasting industry executive, “The two channels named in the Mumbai police FIR may still be doing it as they know the location of the boxes. Another channel which has hired a former Republic TV executive for strengthening its distribution may also be doing it.”
The TRP Scam Case
In October 2020, the Mumbai Police alleged that the TV ratings have been manipulated by Republic TV and two Marathi channels. The Mumbai Police claimed that they have busted a scam related to TV ratings popularly referred to as ‘TRP Scam’. They alleged that BARC ratings were being manipulated. BARC is the organization that measures television ratings in India.
The Mumbai Police claimed that houses having bar-o-meters were paid to watch particular TV channels. Bar-o-Meters are installed in houses to monitor ratings which are further used to grab advertisements, which in turn generates revenue. Mumbai Police even claimed that houses were paid an amount of Rs.500 on a monthly basis.
After busting these alleged ‘TRP Scam’ the Mumbai Police said that the revenue collected through manipulation of TRPs will be seen as ‘proceeds of crime’.
Republic TV’s Stand
Soon after the claims were made, Republic TV revealed that Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations on Republic TV were wrong. He also informed that the arrested Relationship manager of the Hansa Research Group Private Limited – Vishal Bhandari – had named India Today and other channels for allegedly ‘increasing ratings’.
During interrogation, Bhandari had revealed that India Today and some other channel pushed him and offered money to households with the BOMs to keep their TV tuned to those particular channels in order to seamlessly boost their own ratings. Nowhere in the original FIR, which brought the entire case to the Mumbai Police’ knowledge, is the name of Republic Media Network and affiliated channels mentioned.
So, there was only one indisputable clown which has emerged out of the entire fiasco – India Today. Rahul Kanwal and Rajdeep Sardesai almost instantaneously broke into jubilation, as Param Bir Singh named Republic TV as an accused in the alleged racket which his force claims to have busted. Mind you, the Commissioner, for reasons best known to him, chose to not name India Today in the press conference, even while the channel is clearly mentioned in the original FIR.
After 1 year and 4 months of the TRP Scam case, the ex-Mumbai Police Commissioner deemed it a hoax. In his statement to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), ex Mumbai Police Commissioner confirmed that the TRP Scam case against the Republic Media network was fake and part of a political conspiracy. Singh claimed that even the arrest of Journalist Arnab Goswami who heads the Republic Media Network was politically motivated.
So, here’s the fact. TRPs are prone to manipulation and it is possible that few television channels are involved in the scam. It is needed that strict action be taken against those channels to make them understand that there are consequences for every action.