New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation Tuesday registered a fresh FIR into the alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRP) against unknown accused on recommendation by the Uttar Pradesh government.
The case, earlier registered at Lucknow’s Hazratganj police station, is based on a complaint by Kamal Sharma, a regional director in an advertising company who alleged that he “came to know of unknown persons tampering (with) TRPs and carrying out manipulations”.
Following the Mumbai Police’s FIR, this is the second FIR to be filed in the alleged TRP tampering case. Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, which calculates the TRP, had suspended the ratings after the Mumbai Police filed its FIR.
The CBI registered the FIR for common intention, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating, using forged documents as genuine, forgery with intent of cheating and forgery with documents or electronic record to harm someone’s reputation and has begun an investigation.
“We have registered a case and are looking into it,” a CBI officer told ThePrint.
TRPs measure the popularity of a channel or programme among advertising agencies, which, in turn, affects pricing.
The points are calculated by BARC India using a device, called Bar-O-Meter, installed in over 45,000 households. The device collects data about a programme or channel watched by members of these households, on the basis of which weekly ratings are issued.
In his complaint, Sharma claimed he has information that several unknown persons conspired to cheat and also commit a criminal breach of trust and forgery, and in the process, wrongfully manipulate TRPs.
Sharma, however, did not elaborate on the information in his complaint but instead explained what TRPs are and how important they are to advertisers. He also talked about how an investigation must be carried out in this “TRP scam”.
Sharma went to explain the role of BARC India and how rigging TRPs is not a one-person job.
‘BARC operations should be probed’
Speaking to ThePrint, Sharma said he did not ask for a CBI probe, but merely a thorough investigation into the functioning of BARC India.
“As an advertiser, I was concerned. I am losing money if the TRPs are rigged and that is why I asked for a larger probe on the functioning of BARC,” he said.
Asked if he has any information on some channels rigging TRPs, Sharma said, ”I have not named anyone. I have just said these are unknown people and should be brought to book.
“My complaint is simply to get to the bottom of what criteria does BARC have to see how TRPs are recorded? How could they not know this was happening?” he said.
What the FIR says
Sharma has also accused BARC of “favouring some channels” in his complaint.
“Since TRPs are so important, it is the obligation of the organisation calculating TRPs to work in an impartial manner with total integrity. It is necessary for such an organisation to be credible and transparent,” the FIR states.
If BARC functions partially by tweaking the data pertaining to TRP, as a result of a conspiracy to favour certain channels, not only can there be serious repercussions for production of programmes, advertisement placings, it will also cause financial gain to channels in whose favour such manipulations in TRP is done, the FIR goes on to state.
Sharma further said that it is on the basis of TRPs that advertisers decide which channel and programme will feature an ad, and thus the matter should be looked into.
“It (the rating) also allows the investor to keep in mind the popularity of the channel and particular programs. This allows the investor to take a decision on not only the future of the channel but also day to day operations,” the FIR says.
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