Mumbai police probes Republic TV for TRP fraud, Arnab Goswami hits back

Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami demanded an apology from Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh, who he alleged, was getting back at the channel for its reportage on the Sushant Singh Rajput case

Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh on Thursday claimed to have busted a racket that involved private television channels manipulating their Television Rating Points, or TRP. One of the three channels is Republic TV, the police commissioner said. The other two are local Mumbai channels.

Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami responded soon after, linking the police action to the channel’s coverage of certain events including the police probe into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and threatened to file a criminal defamation against the police commissioner. “He should issue an official apology and get ready to face us in court,” Goswami said.

The police action was initiated on a complaint from Hansa, the firm contracted by Broadcast Audience Research Council, or BARC, to install audience measurement meters installed in selected households to track television channels that are being watched by people. Singh said about 30,000 such meters had been installed across the country; 2,000 in Mumbai. Information about the households where the meters are installed is treated as confidential so that the data isn’t manipulated.

But this information was leaked, police said.

Singh said the Mumbai police found that a set of households where these meters were installed were paid money to tune to a particular channel. In one case, Mumbai’s top police officer said, investigators found that a household comprising people who were not literate always had an English news channel switched on.

The households were paid about Rs 400-500 every month, the police commissioner said.

Singh said owners of two local channels had been arrested along with an ex-employee of Hansa suspected of leaking the information about meters installed to the television channels.

Republic TV is next on the police’s radar. Officials of the news channels will be summoned either today or tomorrow, Singh said. “No one involved will be spared,” the senior police officer said, recalling that they earlier believed that some news channels carried out propaganda stories to boost their TRP. Now it appears they manipulate audience data too, he said.

Singh said a small manipulation of the audience data could lead to increase in advertising revenue running into crores of rupees.

“As you are aware, a small manipulation of the TRP translates into advertising revenue running into hundreds of crores… “We will examine bank accounts of the television channels. We will examine the funds received from advertisers. And if this is funds from proceeds of crime, action can be initiated to seize the money or freeze the account,” Singh said.

In a statement issued soon after, Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami said it was an attempt to get back at the channel for its coverage of the Maharashtra government.

Arnab Goswami’s statement put out on the channel’s Twitter handle said Singh had “made false allegations against Republic TV because we have questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation. Republic TV will file a criminal defamation case against Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh. There is not a single BARC report that mentions Republic TV. The people of India know the truth”.

“Mr Param Bir Singh’s investigation in the Sushant Singh Rajput case is under a cloud and this is a desperate measure because of Republic tV’s reportage on Palghar, the Sushant Singh Rajput case or any other case. This kind of targeting only strengthens the resolve of everyone at Republic TV to push for the truth even harder,” Goswami said, threatening to sue the police commissioner.

“Param Bir Singh stands completely exposed today since BARC has not mentioned Republic in any single complaint,” the statement said.

Earlier this year, the police had investigated complaints that Republic TV’s editor-in-chief and prime time anchor Arnab Goswami allegedly instigating hatred against the Muslim community while anchoring a programme on April 29 on the protests by stranded migrants outside the Bandra railway station on April 14.

Source: Hindustan Times

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