The TRP fudging saga continues

Several executives questioned; Mumbai police teams fan out to other states to investigate

NEW DELHI: The Mumbai police’s investigation into the alleged TRP manipulation fracas gathered pace over the weekend. If one were to stand outside the central police headquarters in Mumbai, it would have looked like a roll call of media hotshots was being taken.  

Amongst those to go in were Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani who was interrogated for more than nine hours about the network’s involvement, something the founder Arnab Goswami has vehemently denied, stating that it was TV Today which was indulging in TRP rigging. India Today has denied any such wrongdoing.

The police had sent summons to Republic Bharat COO Harsh Bhandari;  COO- international revenue & distribution Priya Mukherjee; senior distribution executive Ghanshyam Singh, the CEO of Hansa Research Group Praveen Nijhara and another employee.  Madison founder Sam Balsara, IPG Mediabrands CEO Shashi Sinha also spent a large part of the day being questioned by the Mumbai police.

Republic TV CFO Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram, who had also been ordered to appear before the cops, declined, stating that he would available for questioning only after 14-15 October. He also said that he had requested the law enforcers to halt the probe until the company’s writ petition against the police’s actions is heard by the Supreme Court.

Read more news on TRP Scandal

Even as this piece is being written, six teams from the Mumbai police crime branch were further investigating if the malpractice of TRP rigging was being resorted in six states. Republic TV issued a press release stating that the Mumbai police repeatedly tried to find out from its executives how the network managed to get their hands on the Hansa Research filed complaint. It said it would not reveal its sources, citing editorial privilege.

The Mumbai police stepped in to investigate the alleged scam after BARC’s people meter management vendor Hansa Research complained to it that the viewership sample had been compromised. Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh then held a press conference, alleging that executives of three channels – Box Cinema TV, Fakt Marathi and Republic TV – gave financial inducements to members of BARC’s viewership panel to watch their shows, thus inflating their viewerships.

Senior professionals, from the first two, were arrested and are cooling their heels behind bars since the allegations were hurled on 9 October.

Goswami has all along being insisting that Republic TV’s name was not even there in the Hansa complaint, it was TV Today which was mentioned several times, he said. He has  also alleged that the Mumbai police chief is attacking his network at the insistence of the Maharashtra government for continuing to investigate the Sushant Singh Rajput “murder” and several other acts of negligence by it and the city’s law enforcers.

Over the weekend, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also mentioned that it will be taking up the issue. It has asked representatives of the News Broadcasters Association, Press Council of India and Prasar Bharati to depose on the subject of 'ethical standards in media coverage.’

Earlier during the week, Mumbai Police had arrested four people including Bompalli Rao Mistry, the alleged mastermind behind the scandal. Mistry will remain in the police custody until 13 October.

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