A court in Mumbai on Wednesday granted bail to Republic TV Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani in connection with the alleged television ratings manipulation case, Bar and Bench reported.
He was given regular bail by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Esplanade. This came a day after he was sent to judicial custody for 14 days by a magistrate court. Unidentified police officials said that Khanchandani’s role in the scam was identified during the interrogation of the channel’s distribution head, Ghanshyam Singh. They said that Khanchandani was allegedly part of a WhatsApp group that the channel used to discuss and plan the manipulation of its Logical Channel Number, or LCN.
An LCN is an identification number assigned to a television channel, which viewer’s press on their remotes to access the different available services. The Mumbai Police alleged that the Republic TV allegedly used a dual LCN, which allowed it to show up in the “kids channels” section along with the “news channels” category.
Investigators claimed that Khanchandani knew about these alleged LCN manipulations. The Special Investigation Team of the Mumbai Police had told court during remand proceedings that they wished to interrogate Khanchandani to understand the alleged payments made by Republic TV to multi-system and cable operators to boost its viewership ratings.
On Monday, a sessions court in Mumbai had taken exception to the hasty manner in which the city police had arrested Khanchandani. Additional Sessions Judge DE Kothalikar said that the court was disappointed that the police chose to arrest the Republic TV executive on December 13, a day before his plea for anticipatory bail was scheduled for hearing. He is the 13th person to be held by the Mumbai Police in the case.
A fake TRP racket was uncovered in October when 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”. Some of the channels were accused of rigging their TRPs by bribing some households to watch it.
Several Republic TV officials have been questioned in the matter. Apart from Republic TV, Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were the others named during the preliminary investigation.
On December 9, Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Goswami had moved the Bombay High Court seeking a stay on the Mumbai Police’s investigations into the scam. The petition, filed by Goswami and ARG Outlier Media, which owns Republic TV, alleged that Ghanshyam Singh was subjected to custodial torture following his arrest on November 10. A day later, the channel had also moved the National Human Rights Commission against the alleged torture of Singh.
The NHRC on Monday issued notices to the Maharashtra director general of police and inspector general of prisons. It has directed them to submit Singh’s initial health screening report at the time of his admission to jail and his medical treatment record during his stay in the custody, within 4 weeks.