The Enforcement Directorate has said in a chargesheet before a special court in Mumbai that it did not find any evidence against news channel Republic TV in the alleged scam of rigging television ratings, PTI reported on Wednesday.
The Mumbai Police had initially registered a case in 2020, based on which the central agency filed a separate case. The Enforcement Directorate filed its chargesheet on September 15 and Special Judge MG Deshpande took cognisance of the document on Wednesday.
In its chargesheet, the Enforcement Directorate has said that its findings did not match with those of the Mumbai Police. The agency cleared Republic TV and its Hindi news channel R Bharat of allegations of having manipulated television rating points, or TRPs
The Enforcement Directorate also said that it has not yet completed its investigation into the alleged role of two others channels – News Nation and India Today, Bar and Bench reported.
The agency, however, named 16 accused persons in the chargesheet, including the directors of television channels Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movies. It also named relationship managers with market research agency Hansa Research Group and a contractor employed by the Broadcast Audience Research Council.
A fake TRP racket was uncovered in October 2020 after the Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group – one of BARC’s vendors on engagement with panel homes, or “people’s meters”.
Channels were accused of rigging their TRPs by bribing some households to watch it.
On December 25, 2020, Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe had said that a forensic audit report of the rating agency’s data had revealed that numbers were being manipulated at least since 2016.
Bharambe said that the manipulations which were done to a greater extent for English and Telugu news channels, resulted in showing Republic TV as the top-ranked channel, in terms of ratings.
The Mumbai Police had named Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami among the accused persons in its chargesheet.
No proof of Republic TV engaging in malpractices: ED
The Enforcement Directorate said in the chargesheet that there was no evidence that Republic TV or R Bharat engaged in the rigging of TRPs “either by the statement or by digital data evidence”.
The agency added that households that were part of the TRP sample had watched channels other than Republic TV, and had denied having taken any money to watch the channel. It also said that regional managers had confessed to paying households to watch certain channels, but denied doing so for Republic TV, according to PTI.
The chargesheet added that a forensic audit report that the Mumbai Police had relied on was superficial and was based on the analysis of limited aspects.
However, the Enforcement Directorate said that found leads from some households that said that they watched India Today and News Nation in exchange for money from relationship managers. The agency told the court that an investigation into the matter is in progress.
The chargesheet said that there was a wider conspiracy among channel viewers, agents and relationship managers to induce households to watch certain channels in exchange for monetary benefits.