Fake TRP racket: Mumbai Police question Republic TV CEO, COOs and top ad honchos

Shashi Tharoor-led IT panel may also take up the issue after MP Karti Chidambaran wrote to the Standing Committee, raising concerns about the 'legitimacy and reliability' of the TRP system

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Oct 12, 2020 10:04 AM

Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani and two COOs were summoned by the Mumbai Police in the fake TRP case. Media reports say that COO Harsh Bhandari and Khanchandani were questioned for 5 and 9 hours respectively on Sunday.

Mumbai police on Saturday also questioned top ad honchos Sam Balsara, founder, chairman and managing director of Madison World, and Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands in the alleged rating racket case. As per sources, senior executives of other agencies may also be called in the case in coming days. Reliable sources said the two senior executives were mostly asked about the procedures and the process through which ads have been released to the alleged channels accused of fixing TRPs.

The due has reportedly been asked to submit details of the advertisements they had received in the past two months and to which channels were these ads given to. When contacted by exchange4media, Balsara confirmed that he was called under sections dealing with sharing of " information" and not interrogation per se. "During our questioning police was very courteous to us,” said Balsara. Sinha, however, was not available for comments.

IT-panel to take up the issue

In a letter addressed to Shashi Tharoor, Chairman, Standing Committee on Information Technology, Lok Sabha MP Karti P Chidambaram raised the issue of “legitimacy and reliability” of the TRP system.

“TRPs produce essential data on television audiences in India and have become the primary basis for advertising decisions. Government advertising expenditure depends on this system, but public spending should not be based on flawed data,” he wrote.

In light of the scandal, he requested the Standing Committee on Information Technology to take up the issue. “Therefore, I request you to call before the Committee concerned officials of the responsible ministry, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, to seek necessary clarification on the current situation and remedial measures,” Chidambaram wrote.

Following this, the committee has decided to investigate the issue with Tharoor at the helm. The next two sittings for the same will be held on October 15 and 16, according to media reports. During the sitting, representatives of News Broadcasters Association, Press Council of India and Prasar Bharati will convene on the subject of ethics in media coverage.

Reports also say that oral evidence of the representatives will also be taken during the discussion.

Earlier last week, the Mumbai police made arrests in a BARC meter tampering case. The Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh said the city police were probing a scam involving manipulation of TRPs by distorting the apparatus used by BARC to rate television channels. The police also said the accused were bribing households to keep a particular channel running. Two accused who were arrested included owners of Marathi channels - Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema.

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