Lucknow/New Delhi: In a curious development, the CBI has taken over the probe into the alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points on a complaint filed in Uttar Pradesh by an advertising company.
The move comes even as the case is being investigated by the Mumbai police, which has accused three channels, including Republic TV, of fixing the ratings. Republic TV, which has rubbed Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh on the wrong side in in its handling of the Sushant Singh Rajput case, has been pressing, behind the scenes, for a CBI probe.
The case, which was registered initially at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow on a complaint filed by Golden Rabbit Communications, was handed over to the CBI by the UP Government within 24 hours.
It is understood that the Centre has cleared the UP government's proposal for a CBI probe and a team of the central agency is on its way to Lucknow to collect documents about the alleged scam.
This is the second time since the Sushant Singh Rajput case broke that an investigation has meandered and found its way – along a zig-zag path -- from the Mumbai Police to a BJP-ruled state (Bihar) and then the CBI.
According to official data, Golden Rabbit Communications is a Delhi-based government empaneled ad agency. Yet the company filed its FIR in Lucknow through its regional office.
The CBI has registered an FIR against unidentified persons. Though the primary allegations relate to manipulation of TRPs on payment – which may entail a probe into working of media houses -- the ambit of the probe may widen later and even subsume the ongoing investigation in Mumbai – as had happened in the Rhea Chakravorty case.
In the spotlight will be Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh, who is engaged in a personal slanging match with the Republic TV owner Arnab Goswami. It Singh’s case that former employees of Hansa, an agency that placed ratings metres in select households, shared confidential data with the three channels being investigated. Interestingly, Goswami is yet to be arraigned or summoned in the case. Even the FIR lodged in Mumbai does not name the channel though the city police claim its name had cropped up subsequently in the investigation.
The probe is not as much about TRP ratings and the media war between Republic TV and India Today as about the political layers to the controversy with Uddhav Thackeray’ son Uddhav being pilloried online in the Rhea Chakraborty case.
TRP or Television Rating Points of a channel or programme are used to measure popularity by advertising agencies which affect pricing.
The points are calculated by the Broadcast Audience Research Council using a device installed in over 45,000 households across the country called "Bar-O-Meter".
The device collects data about a programme or channel watched by members of these household on the basis of which weekly ratings are issued by the BARC.
Mumbai police had registered a case of TRP manipulation following which the ratings were reportedly suspended by BARC. Golden Rabbit Communications, in its complaint, has asked for a probe into the role of BARC also.