The Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch on Sunday arrested Republic TV’s Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani in the Television Rating Points manipulation case, taking the total number of arrests to 13.
The Mumbai metropolitan magistrate court later remanded Khanchandani in police custody for two days.
A senior police official said Khanchandani’s statement was recorded twice and his role was identified during the interrogation of the channel’s distribution head Ghanshyam Singh, who was arrested earlier.
The investigators alleged that Khanchandani was part of an internal WhatsApp group in which discussions on Logical Channel Number (LCN) would take place. LCN is an identification number assigned to a TV channel, and the allegations against Republic TV are that it allegedly used dual LCN, which allowed it to show up in the genre of ‘kids channels’, apart from the ‘news channels’ category, thus showing up at two places. Investigators have claimed that Khanchandani knew about these alleged LCN manipulations.
Police informed the court on Sunday that Khanchandani did not submit his phone for investigations.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Mumbai Police told court that it wished to interrogate Khanchandani to understand alleged payments made to multi-system operators and cable operators to boost TRP ratings.
Late on Sunday, the News Broadcasters’ Federation issued a statement that said, “Vikas’ anticipatory bail petition is scheduled to be heard by the court and the arrest and remand is highly disturbing. NBF herein reiterates and urges the Government of India to immediately set up an independent and neutral national agency to investigate into any allegations of professional misconduct by journalists, executives, and owners of media companies, in order to prevent selective harassment by the State Authority and to ensure the Freedom of Press.”
The TRP manipulation scam came to light in October after an official of Hansa Research Group — the company tasked with installing barometers to record viewership — lodged a complaint with the Mumbai Police, following which the owner of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema were arrested.
Last week, the Supreme Court turned down a plea by ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, which owns Republic Media Network, seeking protection for the group and its employees from the cases filed against them in Maharashtra.
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