- Apprentice Lawyer
The Mumbai Police has filed a supplementary chargesheet in FIR No. 843 of 2020 which concerns the alleged fake Television Rating Points scam (TRP scam) brought to light by its Crime Branch.
The supplementary chargesheet states that Vikas S Khanchandani (Accused no. 13), Chief Executive Officer of ARG Outlier Media, Romil V Ramgarhia (Accused no. 14) and Partho Dasgupta (Accused no. 15) - the latter being former senior officials of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) - along with other accused have conspired to manipulate viewership data leading to manipulation of TRPs so as to procure more revenue from advertisements on their channels.
The chargesheet states that the Khanchandani along with Priya Mukherjee, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of ARG, carried out transactions in order to ensure that more viewers watch their channels - Republic TV (English) and Republic Bharat (Hindi). The same was discovered through their WhatsApp group chats.
It further states that the Republic channels have been allegedly flouting the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regulations by paying cable operators and multi-system operators for using the 'dual/promotional local channel number' to telecast their news channels on more than a single channel.
The chargesheet has alleged that Ramgarhia misused his position as Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of BARC to aid Republic channels to manipulate their TRPs.
Ramgarhia allegedly conducted internal inquiries into BARC through an independent company 'Acquisitory Risk Consulting Pvt Ltd.' which gave Ramgarhia and his co-accused insight into the working of TRP calculation.
The investigation also cites emails found in Ramgarhia’s work account which discussed how the BARC data is aiding Republic channels though TRP manipulation.
The viewership rating of Times Now, which was higher than Republic, was deliberately manipulated to increase the viewership rating of Republic channels, the Police have claimed.
The chargesheet has declared Partho Dasgupta to be the mastermind of the TRP scam. During his tenure as the Chief Executive Officer of BARC, he allegedly used his position to aid ARG Outlier to manipulate the TRP ratings, it has been claimed in the chargesheet.
The Mumbai Police claims that during its investigation, it came across evidence that showed Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami had paid Dasgupta in return for his assistance in manipulating the TRPs.
The evidence, they claim, was the gold and precious items which Dasgupta allegedly purchased with the money received from Goswami. The items were discovered during the search and seizure carried out at Dasgupta’s residence.
Apart from the specifics of the three accused, the supplementary chargesheet includes 59 witnesses, which includes 12 expert witnesses (forensic auditors, computer forensics auditors).
The Crime Branch has managed to seize property worth approximately Rs 50 lakh, which includes personal computers, laptops, mobile phones, jewellery and watches, it was claimed.
The Mumbai Police have found evidence against general entertainment channels and two Telugu regional channels as well, which they will be further investigating.
The Crime Branch filed its first chargesheet in November 2020 which included details of the first twelve accused. The Crime Branch initiated the investigation in the TRP scam after it discovered, through certain employees of the Hansa Group, that ‘sampling metering services’ were being manipulated by paying people to watch particular TV channels.
A rise in TRPs was, thereby, allegedly achieved by paying money to the television viewers whose houses had barometers installed.
The viewers watched the specified channels for longer hours to show an escalated viewership of the channel, it is alleged.