Designated television ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council, or BARC India, on Sunday denied that it had commented on the ongoing investigation against Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV for allegedly rigging TRPs, and accused the media group of misrepresenting confidential communication between the agency and the channel.
“BARC India has not commented on the ongoing investigation and it is providing necessary assistance to the law enforcement agency,” the ratings agency said in a statement. “BARC India is highly disappointed with the actions of the Republic Network by disclosing private and confidential communications and misrepresenting the same. BARC India reiterates that it has not commented on the ongoing investigation and without prejudice to BARC India’s rights, it expresses its dismay at the actions of the Republic Network.”
In a statement released earlier in the day, Republic TV claimed to have “exposed the lies” of the Mumbai Police – which has accused the channel of rigging viewership numbers – and claimed the BARC had personally confirmed to it that there was no case of alleged malpractices against the network.
Republic TV cited an email exchange that allegedly took place between Republic Media Network’s Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani and the ratings agency on October 16. In his email, Khanchandani requested BARC to “confirm in the public domain” that the “BARC and its vigilance team has found no infringement by Republic TV”.
The media group said that BARC responded to the email on October 17 and thanked the network for their “faith in the internal mechanisms of BARC”. The email reportedly added that “if there was any disciplinary action initiated against ARG Outlier Media Private Ltd, then BARC India would have communicated the same to you along with necessary documents for your response”.
Republic TV claimed this email communication proved that BARC did not level any malpractice allegation against the network, and “yet, the Mumbai Police Commissioner floated a factually-bereft campaign against it, which has been comprehensively exposed at every turn”. “The email by BARC shows that the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s entire campaign against Republic Media Network was based on a lie,” the media group said.
The TRP scam
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.
BARC India is a joint industry company founded by stakeholder bodies that represent broadcasters, advertisers, and media agencies. The council uses BAR-O-Meters, or “people’s metres” that have been installed in over 45,000 households for tracking TRPs. The empanelled households are classified into 12 categories, covering over 80 crore people, according to The Wire.
The members of these households are given separate viewer IDs, which they are required to put on while watching television. This helps BARC to monitor which channels they watch and the duration for the same.
The Mumbai Police’s allegations against Republic TV and two other channels were based on a complaint registered by Hansa, a firm contracted by BARC to install these audience measurement meters. The channels were accused of rigging their TRPs by bribing some households to watch it, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh had said at a press conference on October 8.
Republic TV has refuted the allegations and accused Mumbai Police of a vendetta. The channel had even moved the Supreme Court against the city police’s summons to its top editors and executives, in connection with their investigation. The top court, however, on October 15 had refused to entertain the plea.
Besides Republic TV, Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi have been accused of TRP manipulation during the preliminary investigation.
The Mumbai Crime Branch on Monday said that they had arrested a former Hansa Research employee named Vinay Tripathi from Uttar Pradesh for playing a key role in the scam. The police have also arrested the owners of Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi, Shirish Shetty and Narayan Sharma. They will remain police custody till October 16.