MUMBAI: Mumbai police on Tuesday said in a press release that one of the arrested suspects in the TRP manipulation scam has confessed he has been accepting money from Republic TV and News Nation to distribute among households which were asked to keep certain channels on.
The accused, Abhishek Kolwade, who runs a marketing firm named Max Media, was the 10th person arrested in the case. The release said, “The tenth person arrested is a resident of Thane. During the course of the investigation, he has confessed that he has been accepting money from at least two news channels (Republic and News Nation) and used to pay certain households through his associates.” Two of his associates were arrested earlier, the release said. Three other channels — Box Cinema, Fakt Marathi and Maha Movie — are also being probed for inflating viewership figures.
The police press release said investigations have revealed a money trail between a Hansa group company and ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, the company operating Republic TV. According to police, these “transactions” with “suspect channels” was not revealed to the special investigation team (SIT) by “any of the witnesses from any of the Hansa Group companies”.
Republic has countered the allegation saying the payment made by Hansa Vision to Republic is in lieu of on-air advertising done for the period October 2017 to October 2018. “These facts are completely legitimate and in the open, backed by way of documentation for every transaction relating to it. Advertising contracts and payments thereby are a norm in the broadcast news industry, and not an illegality.”
Hansa has been contracted by Broadcasting Audience Research Council (BARC) to install bar-o-meters in homes across the country to track viewership. In Mumbai, some households where the meters were installed have accepted that they have been paid for keeping certain channels on, police said.
Police said a team of forensic auditors have been roped in to assist the SIT in the probe into manipulation of viewership figures by channels in order to get extract better rates for advertisements. Police said many of the arrested suspects and some wanted accused were employees of Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd, who have misused confidential data entrusted to them. This was done to benefit the channels under probe and resulted in losses to advertisers and their agencies, police added.
Source: Times of India