The Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday attached assets worth about Rs 32 crore of three Maharashtra-based TV channels in the alleged Television Rating Points, or TRP, scam.
“Television channels namely Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie had entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat and commit the offence of criminal breach of trust, forgery in order to gain wrongfully by manipulating TRPs of these television channels,” said the Enforcement Directorate. “Thus, by fraudulently enhancing the TRP ratings, these channels have garnered enhanced advertisement revenue.”
In a statement, the central agency said that the properties attached were in the form of land and commercial and residential units in Delhi, Mumbai, Gurugram and Indore besides some bank deposits.
The agency claimed that “in two of these channels just 5 compromised households were contributing to approximately 25% of the viewership of Mumbai for the relevant period and for the third channel, 5 compromised households were contributing to about 12% of viewership of Mumbai”.
In November, the ED had filed a money laundering case against the channels after studying a Mumbai Police’s first information report on the alleged manipulation of TRPs.
The TRP scam
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”. Channels were accused of rigging their TRPs by bribing some households to watch it.
On December 25, 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.
Several Republic TV officials have already been questioned in the case. Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were the other channels named during the preliminary investigation.
The Mumbai Police had arrested BARC’s former Chief Executive Officer Dasgupta in connection with its investigation into the TRP scam on December 24. The police had alleged that Repbublic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami bribed Dasgupta with “lakhs of rupees” to ramp up the news channel’s viewership. Dasgupta was granted bail by the Bombay High Court on March 2.