Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a money-laundering case in the ongoing case of the alleged Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation racket.
The ED’s Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) is based on the case filed by Mumbai Police. An ECIR is the equivalent of a police First Information Report (FIR). A senior ED officer confirmed the development, adding that those named in the case would be questioned in the next few days.
The agency will ascertain the proceeds of crime involved in the case. The PMLA defines proceeds of crime as “any property derived or obtained, directly or indirectly, by any person as a result of criminal activity relating to a scheduled offence or the value of any such property”. The agency will also look into the TRP case registered by Uttar Pradesh Police.
The anti-money laundering agency will scan the financial details in the case and investigate if there were any illegal hawala transactions.
On October 8, Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh claimed to have unearthed the alleged case of TRP manipulation and the alleged involvement of several channels. He had also set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the case.
During the month-long investigation, several other channels came under the police radar. Until now, police have arrested 12 persons, including the owners of the Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema channels, the distribution head of Republic TV and several former relationship managers of a market research company, Hansa Research Group, hired by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to maintain and fetch viewership data from bar-o-meters installed at homes.
To recall, the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government had said last month it would no longer allow the Central Bureau of Investigation to trespass on its territory. The immediate provocation for the withdrawal of consent was the questionable manner in which an FIR was registered recently in Lucknow in the TRP scam case; this case was taken over by the CBI within 24 hours of the lodging of the FIR on the recommendation of UP Police.
According to police, relationship managers were paid to rig the TRPs, manipulating the sampling metering services by inducing the bar-o-meter users to watch particular TV channels and paying them periodically. The households were paid Rs 400-500 monthly, to watch a particular channel. There are 2,000 bar-o-meters installed in Mumbai.
The BARC is an organisation under the governance of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). It has installed approximately 30,000 bar-o-meters in various parts of India, which monitor various programmes and based on the statistical metrics, it awards ratings to various television channels. Based on these ratings, advertisers pay to advertise. Manipulated TRPs result in miscalculated targeted audiences for advertisers.