Mumbai: Widening the scope of investigation into the alleged Television Rating Points (TRP) rigging case, the city crime branch on Thursday arrested the former chief operating officer (COO) of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). Romil Ramgarhia, 40, is the first person from the organisation to be arrested in the case and the 14th so far. He was in direct contact with Republic TV employees, including its director, helped them in TRP manipulation and made huge profits, alleged the crime branch in their remand application.
Ramgarhia was taken into custody from his residence in Wadala and brought to the crime branch office near Crawford Market. After being questioned for 4-5 hours, he was arrested at 1pm and was later produced before the court, which remanded him in police custody for two days.
From July 2014 to July 2020, Ramgarhia was BARC's COO and had access to all vital information regarding TRPs, including TV viewership, news viewership, channels' performance. He used all this information to allegedly rig the TRPs of Republic TV and Republic Bharat, a crime branch officer said in court while asking for his remand.
According to police, Ramgarhia was well aware that the two channels were indulging in dual LCNs (Logical Channel Number), in which a particular channel was on air at two frequencies or numbers. He also knew where the bar-o-meters were installed.
As per the crime branch officer, they had arrested two employees of Republic Media Network, its CEO Vikas Khanchandani and its distribution head, Ghanshyam Singh. However, both are suspected to have changed their mobile phones before appearing for questioning and as a result, the crime branch could not get sufficient leads. Recently, they had called several cable operators across the state who had pointed toward the role of BARC employees and thus Ramgarhia showed on their radar.
Their suspicions were validated by his call records, which proved he was in touch with several top office bearers of Republic Media, including Khanchandani, which led to his arrest. Besides WhatsApp, he also used emails said a crime branch officer who wanted the former's laptop to be scrutinised.
After a six-year stint at the BARC, he quit the organisation four months ago. The crime branch is also investigating the reason for his exit.
In the second week of October, Mumbai Police had unearthed the TRP rigging case and claimed that several channels indulged in TRP manipulations and named Republic TV, Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and other news channels for indulging in alleged manipulation.
In the alleged malpractice, former relationship managers at Hansa Research, a market research company hired by BARC, were paid to rig the TRPs, manipulate the sampling metering services by inducing bar-o-meter households to watch particular TV channels and pay them periodically. Households were paid Rs 400-500 monthly, to watch a particular channel. There are 2,000 bar-o-meters installed in Mumbai to monitor TRPs.