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Thursday, September 28, 2023

TRP Scam: ED chargesheet gives clean chit to Republic TV, questions Times Now, India Today


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On Wednesday, 28th September, Judge MG Deshpande of the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) took cognizance of the chargesheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), with relation to the TRP rigging scam. The chargesheet unequivocally states that the probe into the matter, which was conducted by the Mumbai Police was in ‘variance’ with the findings of the ED. As stated in the chargesheet, the said panel households either did not watch Republic TV or Republic Bharat or did not have substantial viewership of these channels.

While the Mumbai Police claimed that Republic TV paid money to the panel households and the additional relationship managers, the chargesheet categorically adds that the channels watched by the households were in consonance with the statements of the Relationship Managers of the Hansa Research Group. During the ED investigation, the statement of Nitin Deokar, Deputy General Manager, Hansa, and the complainant in the matter, was also recorded.

As per Deokar, during the routine audit activity, he and his team had once visited a panel household and found an extra bar-o-metre lying at their residence, other than the one installed at their home, and on being enquired about the extra bar-o-metre, it was found out that the son of the owner of the house, Vishal Bhandari, worked with Hansa as Relationship Manager. During the investigation by the BARC Vigilance Team, Vishal had confessed that he had been approached on telephone, by a person named Vinay, to convince to convince 5 panel homes in Mumbai to watch India Today channel daily, for 2 hours. For the said task, Bhandari was paid 5000 Rs as commission and 200 Rs per month were given out to the households every month.

The chargesheet states that BARC, after their audit, had clearly stated that there were no irregularities found to have taken place as far as Republic TV is concerned and no action was taken by BARC against Republic TV post the audit-report was made. But on the other hand, as stated by Dharamveer Mahacha, Head, Vigilance and Investigations, BARC, on the basis of input received from the Data Science team, they had initiated a field-investigation against Times Now, which confirmed that some homes were allegedly approached to watch their channel.

Following which, another investigation took place and re-confirmed the allegation. Further, analysis of the data of Times Now, in comparison to other English news channels, showed unusual spike in the viewership of the channel. Further, the chargesheet says that the allegation made by Mumbai Police, which said that Rs 13 lakhs were found in the house of Abhishek Kolwade, that was paid to him as a bribe to induce households to watch Republic, was found incorrect since there is no money trail between Republic TV, its representatives like Ghanshyam and Kolwade.

Rather, the charge sheet says, “The statement of Abhishek Kolawade and Ghanshyam Singh regarding Republic was taken and they stated that they have neither interacted with each other nor have known each other. Abhishek has categorically stated that he has not paid the Regional Managers for increasing the viewership of Republic TV”.

Talking about the BARC audit report, the chargesheet states that lacuna was revealed in the same, as the findings of the report were not confronted with the accused employees and their explanation for the conclusions drawn were not taken into account. As per the ED, the report was not accurate and missed taking into consideration, several crucial aspects.

The chargesheet, regarding the role of Republic TV in the case, states, “As such, the role of Republic TV (ARG Outlier Media Group) in bribing/influencing Panel Households to watch Republic TV/ Republic Bharat has been investigated in detail. However, no such evidence is forthcoming either by the statement or by digital data evidence”.

TRP Scam: ED chargesheet gives clean chit to Republic TV, questions Times Now, India Today
Sonakshi Datta
Sonakshi Datta
Journalist who wants to cover the truth which others look the other way from.

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