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.
The police 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.
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.
Republic TV has been hugely critical of the Mumbai police and the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government in recent months, particularly over the probe into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. Republic TV hasn’t issued a statement yet but some people on social media interpreted the police action as an attempt to get back at the channel for its coverage of the coalition government in Maharashtra.
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.