Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has issued a Provisional Attachment Order under Section 5 of the Provisions of MoneyLaundering Act, 2002. The 64 page order unmasks the depths of the TRP scam and exposes the real channels manipulating TRP. India Today has been named 50 times in the order in the context of the TRP scam.
India Today is the channel that was in the original FIR filed with the Mumbai Polce in the context of the TRP scam. However, in a press conference on the TRP Scam, former Commissioner of Mumbai Police Parambir Singh did not name India Today but focused the entire TRP scam on Republic Media Network.
The ED Order reportedly mentions that the statement of the Complainant of this case Nitin Deokar, Deputy General Manager of M/s Hansa Research Group Pvt. Ltd. was recorded, and he stated that _“Shri Vishal Bhandari admitted that he has been approached telephonically by a person named Shri Vinay to convince 05 Panel Homes in Mumbai to watch India Today Channel daily for two hours and for the said task Shri Vishal Bhandari was paid Rs. 5000 as a commission and Rs. 200 per month were distributed to each Panel Household”_ This raises serious questions about India Today’s financial inducements of households in order to spike their TRPs, as has now come forward in the form of on-record statements recorded by the ED.
In the statement to the ED, Dharamveer Mahecha, Head-Vigilance and Investigations of BARC told ED about how _“on 25.02.2020, the Market Analytics Team of BARC informed the Vigilance Team about the *abnormal viewership growth during Middle of January, 2020 to Middle of February, 2020 of India Today Channel in Mumbai; that the information was provided by Shri Arijeet Banerjee, Manager of Market Analytics Team of BARC, who looks after the Viewership Trend of English News genre; that the BARC vigilance undertook field investigation for the same; that as per process, the channel was again re-investigated after 13 weeks and therefore, top 25 household panel were selected wherein the higher viewership with respect of India Today Channel was observed ”. This well-documents that even perhaps the raw data of the the rating agency, BARC, has noted the abnormal spike in viewership in India Today, thereby further raising serious questions about manipulations
The ED in its Provisional Attachment Order states that Umesh Chandrakant Mishra, Ex-Relationship Manager of Hansa Research mentioned payments being made to ensure households with Bar-o-Meters watched India today, The statement says, _“He further stated that he was approached by Mr. Vinay Rajendra Tripathi, also an Ex-Relationship Manager of M/s Hansa Research Group Pvt. Ltd, who offered him to convince some of the Panel Households where Bar-O-Meters of BARC were installed to *watch the channel India Today for half to one hour daily.; that for the said task, he had been given around Rs. 15,000 per month* in his bank account; that out of the said amount paid to him, around Rs. 3000 had been distributed by him among the households (Rs. 500 each) in cash and the rest of the amount was his commission and expenses for the said task; that he had done this work of paying the Panel Households for watching India Today channel for the period between November, 2019 to May, 2020, minus January, 2020.”
The POA specifically details household owners who put on record that they were being paid to watch India Today, “Statement of Shri Mukesh Dauda was recorded under section 50 of PMLA, 2002 on 10.01.2021 wherein he stated that he has been paid by Shri Dinesh Vishwakarma for watching India Today and News Nation.”_ Separately it notes that, “Statement of Shri Rajesh Rudramani Shukla, Panel Household (where Bar-O-Metter installed) was recorded under section 50 of PMLA, 2002 on 13.01.2021 wherein he stated that he has been paid by Shri Umesh Mishra for watching News Nation and India Today Channel.”In fact, the ED document specifically says, “Shri Vishal Bhandari in his statement dated 02.03.2021 has interalia stated that Shri Bompally Rao Mistry asked him to convince Panel Homes for watching Box Cinema, Fakt Marathi and Mahamovie, as such he also used to watch the said channels at his own household as well since Bar-O-Meter was installed at their house as well; that Shri Vinay Tripathi asked him for convincing Households for watching India Today , as such he also used to watch the said channels at his own household as well since Bar-O-Meter was installed at their house as well. ”
In addition to the elaborate evidence, the statements of Pulak Banerjee,Vice President of BARC were also recorded. It was noted that )“, he confirmed abnormalities in viewership in respect of India Today, News Nation, Box Cinema, Maha Movie, Fakt Marathi dealt by Shri Vishal Bhandari, Dinesh Vishwakarma and Umesh Mishra.”
In the elaborate ED document which delves into detail about the TRP cam and identifies a financial trail between November 2019 to September 2020 with regard to manipulation of ratings by certain channels in great details. The ED Provisional Attachment Order naming Fakt Marathi, Maha Movies and Box TV says it, “is absolutely clear that the entire revenue generated by the aforesaid four channels, during the tabulated period, were generated by increasing TRP, consequently attracted more clients for advertisement which in turn increased the revenue for the respective channels. Hence by committing scheduled offences, the revenue of the four channels was increased during the period”_
The elaborate ED investigation and probe has elaborately detailed and put the spotlight on the real culprits in the TRP scam. India Today is in the dock now and must face the music for its alleged manipulations of TRPs.PAO dated 17.03.2021