The Mumbai Police on Friday asserted that ex-BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta - who was arrested on Thursday - was the ‘mastermind’ of the alleged multi-crore rupees TRP scam, unearthed last October. Addressing the media, Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh and other officers said that the former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) had allegedly conspired to boost the ratings of one new channel by reducing the viewership of its rival channels.
The 15th person to be arrested so far in the sensational TRP scam, Dasgupta was nabbed by the Pune Police on Thursday and produced before a Mumbai Court (on Friday) which remanded him to police custody till December 28. Singh said that a forensic audit report has brought forth some emails and chats between former top officials, and one of them reads: “Please find below an update on English News Channels for week (_), TimesNow, CNN-News18 will be changed."
“During his (Dasgupta’s) tenure as CEO, there were reportedly quite a few allegations about manipulation of viewership data and also TRPs, and those allegations by different owners or even whistleblowers were suppressed," said Singh. Later, when a new dispensation took charge in BARC, an external forensic audit of data was carried out and it submitted its report in July 2020, and the same was handed over to the Mumbai Police as per its requirements.
The data of around 44 weeks or nearly 10 months was minutely analysed, particularly in the English and Telugu genre news channels, where large-scale manipulations were detected, and the use of different methodologies. According to the report, in some cases, the (TRP) ratings appeared to be pre-decided and there was cartelisation of some high-ranking ex-BARC officials.
Prior to Dasgupta’s arrest, the Mumbai Police had nabbed former COO of BARC Romil Ramgarhia and Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani, who are both now enlarged on bail. Reacting to the Mumbai Police revelations, a BARC official said that the development pertains to ex-employees of BARC India as part of an ongoing investigation in which the agency is extending its support and cooperation to the law enforcement authorities.
The BARC official added: “Every employee of BARC India is expected to conform to a Code of Conduct and Ethics and any infringement invites suitable disciplinary action. We will continue to ensure that what India watches is reported accurately and with utmost integrity. It is a responsibility we owe all our stakeholders."