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Mumbai Police Hauls up Republic TV, Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema over "BARC ratings manipulation" issue

Republic Network's Arnab Goswami said he will file criminal defamation case against the Mumbai Police, denies wrongdoings.

Param Bir Singh, Mumbai Police commissioner, has pointed out instances of television viewership manipulation in India. During a press conference yesterday, he said, "We found that some channels were paying former employees of Hansa Research Group, an agency contracted by BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council), to carry out the research. They, in turn, were paying certain households, selected as barometers for calculating TRPs, to keep certain channels switched on to show higher TRPs.”

Singh named three channels that were involved in the scam. "Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Republic TV are the channels involved in this. We have arrested the owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema, and investigating the matter further."

“In some cases, people who did not understand English were keeping English channels like Republic TV on through the day. We have recorded their statements,” added Singh.

Soon after the press conference, Republic TV issued this statement, "The Mumbai police commissioner has made false allegations against Republic TV because we have questioned him in the (late Bollywood actor) Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation. Republic TV will file a criminal defamation case against him. There is not a single BARC report that mentions Republic TV."  

"Singh's investigation in Rajput case is under a cloud and this is a desperate measure because of Republic TV reportage on Palghar (lynching), Rajput, or any other case. This kind of targeting only strengthens the resolve of everyone at Republic TV to push for the truth even harder. Singh stands completely exposed today since BARC has not mentioned Republic TV in any single complaint. He should issue an official apology and get ready to face us in court," added the statement attributed to Arnab Goswami, MD and editor-in-chief of Republic Media Network.

Meanwhile, Praveen Nijhara, CEO, Hansa Research, had this to say, “This is with reference to the media reports regarding TRP ratings being manipulated. Hansa Research and BARC conducted an investigation into the matter over the last few weeks, the conclusion of which resulted in Hansa Research filing an FIR against an ex-employee, who was engaged in some wrongdoing."

"Hansa Research has always been vigilant about these issues, and has been proactive in informing BARC and the law enforcement agencies as and when such cases have come to our notice. We will continue to cooperate with BARC and the authorities as and when called upon to do so,” added Nijhara in his statement.

BARC India is an industry body with broadcasters, advertisers, advertising agencies and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as its stakeholders. It is also the only body that measures television viewership in India.

When afaqs! reached out to BARC India, a spokesperson said, “As in all our previous cases of suspected panel homes intrusions, BARC India continues to follow its established vigilance and disciplinary guidelines. BARC remains steadfastly true to its purpose to accurately and faithfully report ‘What India Watches’. BARC India appreciates the efforts of the Mumbai Police and will provide the support asked of it."

How this issue unfolds going forward, remains to be seen.