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TRP fraud: Mumbai Police summon officers of Republic TV

by Raju Vernekar
0 comment 3 minutes read

By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Oct. 11:

The Mumbai Police have summoned officers of “Republic TV”- CEO Vikas Khanchandani and Executive Officers Harsh Bhandari and Priya Mukherjee, in connection with TRP fraud for questioning on Sunday. 
Initially the police had summoned CFO Shiv Sundaram for questioning on Friday. However in a letter Shiv Sundaram told police that he was out of town and would present himself on 14 October/15 October. He has also filed a petition in the Supreme court, seeking direction that the police should not take any action without direction of the court. 
A day after the television rating points (TRP) fraud was unearthed, the Mumbai Police recorded the statements of  Sam Balsara, founder, chairman and managing director of Madison World, and Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands, on Saturday. 
The four arrested accused – Vishal Bhandari(20), Bompalli Rao Mistry alias Sanjiv Rao(44), and owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema, Shirish Shetty and Narayan Sharma, have been remanded to police custody till October 13, by the Esplanade court here. 
Nitin Deokar, deputy general manager of Hansa Research Private Limited, who had filed the complaint at Kandivli police station, had alleged in his complaint that Bhandari was working as a relationship manager in his organisation from November 2019 to May 2020. Deokar  stated that during an internal inquiry, they found that Bhandari used to take money from one Vinay Tripathi, a wanted accused, and used to pay households where barometers were  installed and asked them to watch “India Today”. However Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh clarified that there was no evidence against ‘India Today TV’. 
“During inquiry, Bhandari took the name of Rao and said he was currently working for him. Rao is in direct contact with several owners of channels and is involved in manipulating TRPs. When Mumbai Police visited the residence of one of the viewers mentioned in the FIR, Kandivli resident Tejal Solanki, in whose house a barometer was installed, told police that they were asked to watch ‘Republic TV”. 
The Mumbai Police said TRPs were being manipulated by at least three channels,  contending that the manipulated audience numbers were crucial because they directly translated into advertising revenue. The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has contracted Hansa Research Private Limited to monitor various channels and programmes through 30,000 barometers installed across India, based on which the council awards ratings to channels. Of the 30,000, 2,000 barometers are installed in Mumbai, which are handled by 20 relationship managers. 
 ”While investigating a complaint filed by Hansa group on October 6, we found some channels were paying former Hansa employees. They, in turn, were paying certain households to keep certain channels like ‘Republic TV’ switched on to show higher TRPs,” Mumbai’s police commissioner Param Bir Singh said that apart from Republic, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema were also found to be gaming the system.

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