The Mumbai police’s Crime Branch on Tuesday arrested Republic TV’s distribution head Ghanshyam Singh in connection with the alleged rigging of television ratings by the news channel, PTI reported. The latest arrest has taken the number of people held by investigators in the case to 12.
Republic TV is among the media organisations being investigated by the Mumbai Police in the alleged Television Ratings Point, or the TRP scam. Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were the other two channels who were named during preliminary investigation. Later, News Nation and Mahamovie channels were also formally named in the case. The channels were accused of rigging their TRPs by bribing some households to watch it.
Singh, who is also the assistant vice president of the Republic Media Network, was picked up from his residence around 7.40 am, the official said. He has been questioned by the Crime Intelligence Unit of Mumbai on multiple occasions in relation to the case.
Republic TV in a statement condemned Singh’s arrest and claimed he was being falsely targeted as part of the Mumbai police’s “malicious campaign” to “desperately implicate Republic and its members”.
“Ghanshyam Singh who heads Republic Media Network’s Western Region Distribution has continuously cooperated with the Mumbai Police in the case,” the network said. “Ghanshyam has personally been through over 40 hours of semi-custodial interrogation, and his current detention crafts a new low in the highhanded tactics of the law and order machinery in the state of Maharashtra which is functioning unchecked.”
The media group claimed Singh’s arrest – like Arnab Goswami’s “illegal arrest” – was a result of a “prescripted vendetta instead of evidence and facts”.
Goswami was arrested in a separate case from his Mumbai home last week after the police said they had found new evidence in an abetment to suicide case filed in 2018. The Bombay High Court refused interim bail to the journalist on Monday, the fifth time since his arrest. The court had not given interim relief to Goswami on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and had reserved its orders.
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A fake TRP racket was uncovered earlier in October when the 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”.
On October 14, Republic TV’s Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanaswamy and Senior Executive Editor Abhishek Kapoor appeared before the crime branch of the Mumbai Police to record their statements in the case. Republic TV Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani had appeared before the Mumbai for questioning in case on October 11. The TV channel’s Chief Financial Officer Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram was supposed to appear before the police on the previous day, but he asked for a reschedule citing “personal commitments”.
Republic TV has repeatedly claimed that the summons to its top editors in the TRP scam were part of a “desperate witch hunt” by Singh. They have also accused the police of pursuing an agenda against free press. Last month, the channel had said it would sue Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh for Rs 200 crore for allegedly damaging its reputation by linking it to the case.