Republic TV is among the three channels that are being investigated for rigging ratings for ad revenues and to spread fake narratives, the Mumbai Police said today. Two persons have been arrested. One of them is a former employee of an agency that installed “people metres” to assess ratings.
Officials of Republic TV – which claims the highest TRPs or Television Rating Points among news channels – will be summoned today or tomorrow, said the officer.
According to the Mumbai Police, the investigation is part of a larger analysis on manipulation of news trends and how a “false narrative” was spread, especially in relation to the Sushant Singh Rajput case. The information has been shared with the central government, they said.
Mumbai Police Chief Paramvir Singh said the bank accounts of the channels would be investigated, besides the funds they receive from advertisers and “whether they are from proceeds of crimes”. More channels could also be examined, he said.
“Anyone involved in the channel, no matter how top management, how senior, will be questioned, and if involved they will be investigated,” he said.
If any crime was revealed, the accounts would be seized and more action would be taken, Mr Singh said.
“Household data were used by the channels for ratings manipulation and they received illegal advertising funds. This will be considered proceeds of cheating,” said the police chief.
“There was false TRP spreading. TRP ratings were being bought. The manipulation was mainly for advertising revenues,” he added.
The police said former employees of Hansa shared confidential household data with the three channels being investigated.
The media organisations allegedly bribed households to keep their channel switched on all the time. “If you see the data, poor uneducated households that don’t speak English were watching only English TV channels,” Mr Singh said.
The households were offered a monthly payment of ₹ 400-500.
Arnab Goswami, the Editor-in-Chief of Republic, declared that he would sue the Mumbai Police commissioner and accused him of making false allegations “because we have questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation”. He added in a statement: “He should issue a public apology or get ready to face us in court.”
Ratings manipulation has been a familiar charge in the television industry. Central ministers have commented on it and even the Supreme Court recently criticized the race for TRPs. In the case on Sudarshan TV’s “UPSC Jihad” show, the Supreme Court had commented on the power of the electronic media to target a community, damage reputations or tarnish someone’s image. “The problem with the electronic media is all about TRPs, leading to more and more sensationalism that damages the reputation of people,” a judge remarked.
Yesterday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had said that it was all about “TRP journalism” now.