Forensics expose how ex-BARC execs manipulated Telugu & Kannada news genre ratings

As per ARCP's analysis, Venkat Sujit Samrat, former BARC Product Head, gave out specific instructions to cut viewership ratings of a few news channels, keeping the senior management informed

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Jan 20, 2021 9:36 AM  | 4 min read

The Acquisory Risk Consulting (ARCP), in its forensic analysis, found incriminating evidence against Venkat Sujit Samrat, former Head- Product Leadership, BARC India. It points to him manipulating of the viewership of Telugu and Kannada genre during week 1, 2,4 and 7 of week 2017; week 9, 20 and 29 of 2019; and August of 2018. 

Venkat Sujit and Rajnish Rathore's mail trail shows that the former gave instructions to cut the viewership rating of TV5, ABN Andhra Jyoti, and 10TV. 

"The ratings had increased as these channels aired the 31 December Welcome Programme. TV5 rating was reduced to 80.03 from 88, while ABN Andhra Jyoti's rating dropped to 52.07 from 57. 10TV viewership reduced to 52.01 from 57. The revised ratings are much below the previous four-week average," read the forensic report. 

Similarly, in week 2 of 2017, the mail conversation between Venkat Sujit and Rathore indicates manipulating TV9 Telugu and Sakshi TV ratings. In the case of TV9 Telugu, the outlier policy was not applied, while for Sakshi TV, the capping was released. 

"This increased %Rat of TV9 Telugu from 115 to 125.01, and that of Sakshi TV from 19.76 to 23.78. Though Rajnish Rathore suggested these changes, this was approved by Venkat Sujit," stated in the report. 

The audit team refers to an email conversation trail involving Romil Ramgarhia (former COO), Venkat Sujit, Pekham Basu (former VP strategy BARC India),  Rajnish Rathore, Rushabh Mehta (former VP West- Partnership and B&D).  Pekham Basu gave the following instructions to Rajnish Rathore and Rushabh Mehta. 

-TV5, ABN Andhra Jyoti, and T news to be brought down below NTV 

-TV 9 has gone down, which is fine. Please keep it close to NTV

-All key channels are falling; only V6 is showing high growth. Please re-look at V6 in accordance 

The report says, "As BMW %Rat was not aligned to the above requirements, Pekham Basu provides the %Rat to be achieved. The %Rat was manipulated using the % Control value. It is clear evidence of pre-fixing %Rat using Meta rule manipulation. This mail shows that this activity was carried out with full knowledge of senior management."

ARCP also found evidence that in week 6 of 2017, refer to an email conversation trail involving Venkat Sujit, Rushabh Mehta, and Sachin Paliwal, as per the pre-read, the Telugu News Genre ratings increased by 39%. Venkat Sujit instructs to ensure that the growth is limited to 10 to 15% max.

Similarly, another email trail proves that the ratings could manually be changed. Venkat Sujit instructs Rathore to decrease NTV and ABN Andhra Jyoti. William Mckenna suggests being precise about the required rating and the reason for the same.

As per the forensic analysis, BARC had been manually controlling the %Rat of few channels in the Telugu News Genre. The email conversation involving Venkat Sujit, Mehta, Elbert, Romil, and Praveen Kumar, Venkat Sujit mentioned that the below data has to be re-looked (talking about the specific data). "Any external guy reading the data will clearly come to know we are controlling certain channels heavily," he wrote. Venkat Sujit also suggests the following: 

- "My opinion: we bring TV9 and others also in the growth range of 30% or release the other channels to grow more. This can't go out. 

- Venkat Sujit goes ahead and seeks permission (or a re-run to achieve the following): 

  • Can we keep the gain of TV9 to 20 to 25 points instead of 39 points 
  • And maybe around 10-12 points gain for rest (currently it is a single-digit gain for all) 
  • We can let ETV AP be as is 
  • We will have to bring down Sakshi and hmtv also a bit.. to around 10-12 points gain 

These emails prove that specific channel ratings were controlled/changed as per Venkat Sujit's instructions, keeping senior management informed. 

In one of the email trails, Venkat Sujit asked Mehta to reduce TV5 Kannada in rural growth from 330% to 150% for week 20 of 2018. He said, “Urban is good to go.” In another email on August 7, 2018, Venkat Sujit suggested keeping TV5 rural growth in the range of 20-25%. 

There is also evidence of panel manipulation. "In the email exchange between Venkat Sujit and Romil, Venkat Sujit seeks Romil's opinion about replacing the High Viewing Panel Homes to reduce I News's viewership. This is not informed to MSCI as well. This mail points to possible Panel Manipulation to manage ratings," the report mentioned. 

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