There is more trouble brewing for Republic TV, which has had many face-offs with the Mumbai police and the Maharashtra government for its coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput case that showed the state’s force in poor light.
The Mumbai police on Thursday (October 8) said they have arrested two people in connection with an investigation into the alleged manipulation of TRP ratings by the news channel besides two other local channels.
The two arrested people were owners of channels ‘Fakt Marathi’ and ‘Box Cinema’.
“Officials of Republic TV will be summoned today or tomorrow,” Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh told reporters, according to NDTV.
One of the arrested persons used to work with an agency that set up meters to gauge people’s viewing habits to arrive at the television rating points (TRPs), the police said.
They said Republic TV officials will be questioned over the manipulation. The channel claims that it stands first in TRPs for news channels.
The police will look into the financial details of the channels, Mumbai commissioner Paramvir Singh said. He said the police will also investigate if the funds the channels received are “proceeds of crimes”.
“Anyone involved in the channel, no matter how top management, how senior, will be questioned, and if involved they will be investigated,” he said, NDTV reported. Their accounts would be frozen if any wrongdoing emerges during the investigations, he said.
Singh said the TRPs are calculated based on the audience measurement meters installed at various households. The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), which calculates the TRPs, had given the contract to install the meter. He said while there are about 30,000 meters installed all over the country, about 2,000 are in Mumbai.
He said some of the homes with the meters were paid money to switch to a particular channel to manipulate the ratings.
“If you see the data, poor uneducated households that don’t speak English were watching only English TV channels,” NDTV quoted Singh as saying. He claimed the families were offered a monthly payment of ₹400-500 for their role in elevating ratings.
He said the investigation could cover more channels.
The channels got funds from advertisers using the manipulated ratings. “This will be considered as proceeds of cheating,” he said, reported NDTV. They were manipulating the ratings mainly for revenue from advertisement, he said.
Singh said former employees of Hansa, an agency that placed ratings metres in certain households across the country, had shared confidential data with the three channels being investigated. Hansa’s data was used by BARC, which releases weekly rating points for channels across India.
In response to this development, Arnab Goswami said in a statement that he would sue the Mumbai Police commissioner and accused him of making false allegations “because they had questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation”.
He added, “He should issue a public apology or get ready to face us in court.”
According to NDTV, the entire statement read, “Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh has 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. Param Bir Singh stands completely exposed today, since BARC has not mentioned Republic in any single complaint. He should issue an official apology and get ready to face us in court.”
The Mumbai police had earlier questioned Arnab Goswami in June in connection with a complaint that alleged that his channel was trying to create communal tension through a show that was aired on April 29 about migrant labourers gathering at Bandra amid the COVID pandemic.
During the Sushant Singh Rajput case, the channel had targeted Paramvir Singh as it raised questions about the investigations.