No evidence was found against Republic TV in the alleged TRP manipulation scam, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) alleges in its indictment filed here in a special court.
The Mumbai police’s investigation into this matter is “contradictory” with their investigation, the central agency said in the indictment. At the same time, the ED also said it found evidence that some regional and entertainment channels were involved in manipulating television rating points (TRP) by paying sample or “panel” households Judge MG Deshpande of the Special Court of the Prevention Act of money laundering took note of the indictment on Wednesday.
The ED filed an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in November 2020, which is equivalent to a police FIR. The ECIR followed the first information report registered by Mumbai police against Republic TV, two Marathi channels and some individuals for alleged TRP manipulation. The scam came to light when rating agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) filed a complaint about Hansa Research Group.
The ED fee schedule stated that there was a broader conspiracy between channel viewers, agents and regional managers to influence/cause panel households to watch specific channels for financial gain. TRP depends on small statistical data from nearly 1,800 households in Mumbai and 45,000 households across India, it noted. It is very difficult to determine when the manipulation began, but various channel owners have been manipulating the system over a significant period of time, it said.
Broadcasters including Maha Movies, Box Cinema, Fakt Marathi and others conspired criminally with Bompalli Mistry, a former top executive at Hansa Group in the guise of a cable reach survey, sources said.
The alleged role of Republic TV (ArG Outliers) in bribing/influencing panel households to watch Republic TV or Republic Bharat channels has been thoroughly investigated. It then became apparent that the Mumbai Police’s investigation was at odds with the ED’s investigation, the indictment said. The panel households denied taking money to watch Republic TV or Republic Bharat, it said.
Regional managers who confessed to paying household panels to watch select TV channels declined to do the same for Republic TV, the indictment said. There is no evidence that Republic TV or Republic Bharat indulges in these practices, “neither through the statement nor through digital data evidence,” she added.
The forensic examination report relied on by the Mumbai police was “superficial” and based on “limited aspects analysis,” the indictment said. Mahesh Bompalli had complete knowledge of TRP’s manipulation of channels such as Box Cinema and Fakt Marathi, said the ED Bompalli and owner of Box Cinema and Fakt Marathi, among others, were named as defendants in the indictment.