New Delhi: The complainant who has filed a fresh FIR with the CBI in the alleged manipulation of television rating points (TRPs) has led election campaigns for many political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections.
The complainant, Kamal Sharma, is a regional director in a Delhi-based advertising company, and told ThePrint he has had associations with the BJP, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.
He also claimed the tagline for the 2007 UP elections — ‘UP mein hai dum, jurm hai yahan kam’ (UP is strong, and has less crime) — voiced by Amitabh Bachchan for Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government, was coined by his team. The Uttar Pradesh Information Commission had served a notice to the Bollywood megastar for the ad, asking him the basis of the claim.
However, BJP and SP functionaries said they didn’t recall working with Sharma.
“I do not know him. I do not recall if he worked with the BJP for 2017 elections, but it is a big party. I cannot say if he was in touch with someone else,” UP BJP spokesperson Harish Chand Srivastava said.
Another BJP spokesperson in UP, Naveen Srivastava, said: “I have heard that he has got a case registered in Hazratganj, but I do not recall that he worked with us for the election campaign.”
Samajwadi Party’s MLC Udaiveer Singh too said that he had “not heard” of Sharma.
“I have not heard of him. If he had written any slogan, our party would have known, but I have not heard this name in the party’s campaign team,” Udaiveer Singh said.
Also read: TRP is manipulatable, needs to change, say I&B Ministry, Prasar Bharati & PCI to House panel
Complained because TRP scam affects an advertiser
Kamal Sharma said the TRP scam caught his attention, because it directly affects an advertiser, and that is why he filed a case.
“I have been doing political campaigns for elections since 1998. I have worked with many top agencies and all of these major political parties. Apart from that, I have worked with LIC, BSNL, NTPC, and have had corporate clients as well,” he said.
“My association with these parties, however, is very professional. I gave a complaint in this TRP scam because I wanted the police to investigate the role of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India,” Sharma said.
The CBI filed the case Tuesday against unknown accused, on the Uttar Pradesh government’s recommendation. The case was earlier registered at Lucknow’s Hazratganj police station.
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. It has begun an investigation.
This is the second FIR in the alleged ‘TRP tampering’ case, after the first by the Mumbai Police. BARC India, which calculates TV ratings, had suspended them after the Mumbai Police FIR.
‘Have information about conspiracy to cheat’
In his complaint, Kamal Sharma claimed he has information that several unknown persons conspired to cheat and also commit forgery and a criminal breach of trust by wrongfully manipulating TRPs. The complaint is based on information that he collected from “open sources”, and after talking to his friends and colleagues in the profession. He claimed he “thought of filing this case after Mumbai Police did a press conference exposing the TRP scam”.
“After I heard about the Mumbai Police’s probe and details that emerged, I started looking up and researching about how TRPs work and the role of BARC. I did my research from open sources and also spoke to a lot of my old colleagues who are aware about how these things work. After that I lodged a formal complaint,” he said.
“What bothered me is how BARC calculated figures based on Bar-o-Meter, installed in just 45,000 households. More than 20 crore people live in UP. How can just 45,000 meters decide countrywide ratings? How is BARC claiming which channel does well based on such a small sample?” he asked.
“Also, why did the BARC suspend the ratings? Why is there no transparency? How can BARC do this? It is like fleecing people, cheating them,” Sharma added.
He also said since TRPs are so important, it is the obligation of the organisation calculating them to work in an impartial manner with total integrity.
“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 states.
Investigation is on
Sharma told ThePrint that he was contacted by the CBI and put his concerns before the agency.
“The investigation in the case is on and I hope the culprits are brought to book,” he said.
Asked why he filed a separate complaint when the Mumbai Police was already looking into the alleged scam, Kamal Sharma said: “They have named certain channels and that is state-specific. I am more concerned about the larger picture and the role of BARC, which I think should be investigated thoroughly.”
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