Two senior editors of Republic TV appeared before the crime branch of the Mumbai Police on Wednesday to record their statements in connection with an investigation into the alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points, PTI reported. The police had issued the summons to the news channel’s Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanaswamy and Senior Executive Editor Abhishek Kapoor on Tuesday.
While Narayanaswamy arrived at the Crime Intelligence Unit office at 12 pm, Kapoor reached around 4 pm, a crime branch official said.
In a tweet notifying Kapoor’s arrival, the news channel said they would not yield to revealing their sources. It has claimed earlier that its editors were being asked to reveal their sources, which was a reminder of “Emergency days”.
“Republic Media Network stands with our Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanaswamy & Senior Executive Editor Abhishek Kapoor,” the channel said in another tweet. “Republic stands wholly for the right of the media to report and protect its sources.”
The police said that Republic TV had on October 10 aired a document that purportedly belonged to the Hansa Research Group, a private firm through which ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint about TRP manipulation.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the summoned persons are acquainted with certain facts and circumstances of the document and same is required to be ascertained from them,” the summons stated.
Republic TV claimed that the summons were part of a “desperate witch hunt” by Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh. The news channel added: “It is shocking that the summons issued to them demands that they reveal the source of the Hansa Research Group Private Ltd complaint that bludgeoned the lies that the state machinery in Maharashtra tried to peddle against the news network.”
Republic TV also claimed that it was not mentioned in the complaint by Hansa Research. “As it is well documented in the public domain, Republic Media Network on October 10, 2020, put out the Hansa complaint report before the people of India,” Republic TV said. “The Hansa complaint report served as the final nail in the coffin of lies built against Republic TV in the TRP case. The complaint neither referred to Republic TV nor made any mention of any affiliates.”
The Mumbai Crime Branch on Monday said that they had arrested a former Hansa Research employee named Vinay Tripathi from Uttar Pradesh, The Indian Express reported. The officials said that he played a key role in the scam and had paid another accused to manipulate ratings. The police also recorded the statements of two senior officers from Hansa Research.
Last week, Republic TV Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani had appeared before the Mumbai for questioning in case.
Republic TV’s Chief Financial Officer Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram was supposed to appear before the police on Saturday, but he asked for a reschedule citing “personal commitments”.
Television Rating Points, or TRPs, is a metric provided to judge what programmes are viewed the most. It gives an index of the choice of the people and also the popularity of a particular channel.
The TRP scam
Besides Republic TV, Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi have been accused of TRP manipulation during the preliminary investigation. The Mumbai Police have also arrested the owners of the two channels, Shirish Shetty and Narayan Sharma. They will remain police custody till October 16, according to the Hindustan Times.
The fake TRP racket came to light when Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers. Hansa Research is one of BARC’s vendors on engagement with panel homes, or “people’s meters”.
Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh had said that an analysis of manipulation of news trends showed a “false narrative” was being spread, especially regarding the investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
Republic TV had refuted the allegations of TRP manipulation and accused Mumbai Police of a vendetta. The Mumbai Police, on the other hand, denied any bias in the investigation.