In its ongoing Television Rating Points (TRP) case probe, the Mumbai Police on Friday claimed that former top officials of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) manipulated viewership and TRP data so that a particular news channel could get top ranking.
Citing a third-party forensic audit report from BARC, Joint Commissioner of Police Milind Bharambe alleged that three methods — ` the outlier method, changes in meta-rules and changes in channel audience control’ — had been used to topple the then number one English news channel to the second spot and pushing Republic TV to the top rank.
Bharambe said the report revealed that “Times Now, which was probably at the number 1 position in the genre of English news then, was thrown on the number 2 position due to manipulation of data, and Republic TV was put on number 1.”
He added that as per the report, the ratings seemed to be pre-decided, and data was manipulated accordingly. To showcase the TRP rating of a particular channel, data were selectively chosen and analysed, the audit report has revealed, Bharambe alleged.
The report also allegedly points to cartelisation of some of the top ex-officials of the BARC. E-mail conversations between top BARC officials have been mentioned in the report, which also allegedly points towards the manipulations. Without taking any names, Mumbai Police revealed some of the mail excerpts, such as, "Required Times Now Numbers were changed while Republic kept the same". These emails are also part of the probe, police said.
When the Mumbai Police asked for details from BARC for its probe, they received the report recently. After analysing it, Mumbai police on Thursday arrested former BARC CEO, Partho Dasgupta. Earlier, they had arrested Romil Ramgarhia, BARC's former COO.
The police on Friday alleged in court Dasgupta played the main role in the TRP manipulations of certain channels including Republic TV. He was remanded to police custody till December 28. Dasgupta was CEO of BARC between June 2013 and November 2019.
As per the report, the alleged manipulations took place between 2016 and 2019. The report analysed data of 44 weeks between mid-2017 and 2019 with respect to English news and Telugu news channels.
A BARC India spokesperson said, “The development related to the two ex-employees of BARC India is a part of an ongoing investigation for which BARC management continues to extend its support and cooperation to the law enforcement agencies. It would consequently be inappropriate for BARC to comment any further at this stage. Every employee of BARC India is expected to conform to a Code of Conduct & Ethics and any infringement invites suitable disciplinary action.”
Republic Media Network in a statement said the police's allegations were laughable. The sole objective of the probe was to target Republic TV, it said. The investigation was a farce and its sole objective was to target Republic TV, it claimed. BARC, which had complained to the police about alleged rigging, had said in emails in October and November that Republic TV was not involved, the media group said.