The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is likely to file its first prosecution complaint or chargesheet in the alleged fake TRP (television rating point) scam this month. Sources familiar with the case said the agency was finalising its chargesheet and has recorded statements of close to 60 households in Mumbai that it suspects were bribed to tune into a particular channel.
The ED chargesheet will also detail the alleged wrongdoings of Hansa Research Group, former management of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) and at least four relationship managers who allegedly helped channels manipulate TRPs. Hansa Research Group measures TRPs on behalf of BARC. Relationship managers are incharge of maintenance of meters installed in households for collection of viewership data.
At least three news firms — Republic Media Network, India Today Group and News Nation — and four entertainment channels have come under the scanner of the ED for allegedly paying bribe to fraudulently boost TRPs, so as to increase advertising revenue.
The scam came to light last year when BARC lodged a complaint with the Mumbai Police through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers.
According to police, a few channels bribed some families, in whose homes meters were installed, to tune into a particular channel. The Mumbai Police has arrested 13 people in connection with the case, including the former COO of BARC. It has chargesheeted 12 people in the case, including former officials of Hansa Research Group, owners of news channels and one Republic Media employee – assistant vice-president (distribution) Ghanshyam Singh. They have been charged with cheating, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence.
The ED had, in the past, questioned the chief financial officer (CFO) of India Today Group on the basis of the original complaint filed in the fake TRP case, with the Mumbai Police and raw data obtained by the ED from BARC for the alleged period under examination.