Mumbai: After alleging that Republic Media Network was involved in the rigging of Television Rating Points (TRP) almost a month ago, Mumbai Police on Tuesday arrested the channel's assistant vice president and distribution head Ghanshyam Singh, 44, on Tuesday morning. With his arrest, the total number of people held in the alleged TRP manipulation case has gone to 12, so far.
Mumbai Police, in their remand application before the court, claimed that one of the arrested accused, Abhishek Kolwade, had named Singh in his statement. As per Kolwade's statement, Singh had been paying him Rs 15 lakh a month from January to July this year, for rigging Republic TV's TRPs and he had allegedly accepted the money at Ashish Choudhary's office and some part of this money was accepted via hawala transactions, Mumbai Police claimed in their remand application.
Kolwade used some of this money to pay other accused, who further paid households for TRP rigging. Kolwade is the proprietor of a company named Max Media, while Choudhary runs a cable distribution company, Crystal Broadcast.
Police also claimed that Rs 11.72 lakh earlier recovered from Kolwade's house was money he received for TRP rigging. They also alleged that in Singh's mobile, they had found a couple of mobile numbers of Kolwade under his aliases of Mahadik, Amit and Ajit. Kolwade allegedly never used his real identity during dealings and the police said they were not sure of his real name until his arrest on October 25.
The remand application further said that initally, Singh had approached Choudhary for TRP manipulation, but when he refused, Singh approached Kolwade, who allegedly agreed.
According to police, Singh, a resident of Ghodbunder Road,Thane, was arrested around 7.40am on Tuesday and produced before the court, which sent him to police custody till November 13. Singh was produced before the court with his face covered and police claimed they wanted him to be part of an identification parade. Republic has criticised the arrest, calling it a brazen missuse of power.
On October 8, Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh claimed to have unearthed the alleged case of TRP manipulation and the alleged involvement of Republic TV, along with several other channels. He also set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the case.
During the month-long investigation, several others channels came under police radar. Until now, police have arrested the owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema channels, along with 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.
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 to monitor TRPs.
The BARC is an organisation under the governance of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). BARC 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.