Republic TV CFO Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram, who was to appear before Mumbai Police today (October 10) over charges that the news channel paid people to tweak its ratings and illegally earn more ad revenue, has cited “personal commitments” to request that the summons be rescheduled.
While Sundaram, who is the first senior figure from Republic TV to be called by the police, expressed a “commitment to cooperate,” he also said the channel had filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging Mumbai Police summons.
This petition is “likely to be listed soon” and Mumbai Police is therefore “requested not to proceed with any further investigation insofar as Republic TV and its employees are concerned”, a statement issued on Saturday said.
Sundaram said he was scheduled to travel outside Mumbai for the next few days and would “only be available in Mumbai by October 14 or 15”.
On Thursday Broadcast Audience Research Council, an agency that tracks television viewership, alleged the numbers were being fudged by certain channels.
Republic TV is the biggest name to have emerged from early inquiries, with viewers testifying they were paid to keep the channel on even when they were not watching. The two other channels named in early investigations are local channels Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema.
The Television Rating Points scam emerged during a larger analysis of manipulation of news trends and how a “false narrative” was being spread, especially regarding the investigation into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh said.
The information had been shared with the Centre, he said.
The police intend to carry out a “forensic audit” of Republic TV accounts, which could be frozen if it was established that the channel pocketed extra advertising money using rigged ratings.
The summons to Sundaram contend that there are reasonable grounds to believe he is “acquainted with certain facts and circumstances of the matter”. The police have also summoned accountants from the two other channels and those from a couple of advertising agencies.
Republic TV has refuted the allegations and accused Mumbai Police of a vendetta because the channel had questioned the police investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami declared on October 9 that he would sue the police over the allegations and insisted “not a single BARC report mentioned Republic TV”.
“The people of India know the truth,” he said.
Four people, including the owners of the two smaller channels, have already been arrested.
The police said the complaint was filed earlier this month by Hansa Research, a company appointed by BARC, which installs “people metres” to track viewership. The company said some former employees had shared details of the households being tracked and helped rig ratings.