The Mumbai police on Thursday claimed to have busted a Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation racket, adding four persons have been arrested in this case.
TRP is a tool to judge which TV programmes are viewed the most and also indicates the viewers' choice and popularity of a particular channel.
Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh told reporters that Republic TV channel, facing flak over its attack on Mumbai police and Maharashtra government in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, was also involved in the "false TRP" racket.
Now, a video has surfaced on social media, where a man can be seen stalling a car which belongs to news channel Aaj Tak.
He claims that the vehicle tried to overtake him on a narrow road which is under maintenance. He yells ‘TRP ke bhooke (hungry for TRP)’, cusses the channel multiple times, and concludes by adding that he wants India Today journalist Rahul Kanwal to watch it.
Kanwal on Thursday took to Twitter to share news channels' ratings for the week and got brutally trolled for 'faking' data, after a Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) report went viral.
For those unversed, India Today and Aaj Tak belong to the same media group.
The video comes after Mumbai police crime branch, unearthed a TRP racket, and arrested two persons, owners of two Marathi channels, for manipulating viewership ratings, Singh said.
Another police official said two former employees of Hansa agency, involved in the process to determine the TRPs, have also been arrested.
Singh said Republic TV channel is also involved in the TRP racket and those responsible will be arrested, be it a director, promoter or any other employee of the channel.
Republic TV, in a statement, rubbished Singh's claims.
Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the channel, said the Mumbai police chief made false claims against Republic TV as the channel had questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation.
Goswami said the channel will file a criminal defamation case against the Mumbai police commissioner.
The India Today angle
Republic TV claimed that it had accessed the FIR filed by the Mumbai Police, and that Republic TV’s name was not mentioned in the complaint.
Rather, it said, the FIR showed that Vishal Bhandari, arrested by the police, had revealed that India Today and other channels instigated him and offered money to panel homes where barometers were installed.
Responding to this, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe said, "In the FIR, the name of India Today is mentioned. However, it is not substantiated by any of the accused or witnesses. On the contrary, the accused and witnesses are specifically mentioning the names of Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema. Thorough investigations are going on.”
Manipulated TRP ratings result in miscalculated targeted audience for the advertisers, he said, adding this results in losses of hundreds of crores of rupees because of such manipulations and fake statistics of TRPs.
TRP is calculated on the basis of TV channel viewership in a confidential set of households.
Singh said those involved in the racket would bribe people in these households and ask them to keep some channels switched on even when they weren't watching or not at home.
The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) releases weekly rating points for TV channels in India and its officials are also being questioned in connection with the case, he said.
There are 2,000 barometers installed in Mumbai to monitor TRPs, he said, adding BARC gave contract to Hansa agency for monitoring these barometers.
The two channel owners arrested were produced in court and Mumbai police have got their custody till Friday, he said.
The arrests were made under sections 409 and 420 of IPC, he added.
Mumbai police recovered Rs 20 lakh cash from one of the accused, he said, adding police also found Rs 8.5 lakh from his bank locker.