Despite summons, the chief financial officer (CFO) of Republic Media Network on Saturday did not appear before the Mumbai Police to record his statement in connection with the “spiked TRP scam” and sought more time till the hearing of a petition filed in the Supreme Court within a week.
CFO S Sundaram also told the police that he was currently not in Mumbai and would only return on October 15.
However, Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director of Madison World and Madison Communications, arrived and recorded their statement in this regard, news agency PTI reported.
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This came a day after the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) of the Mumbai crime branch directed Sundaram to join the probe at 11 am. The accountants of TV channels Box Cinemas and Fakt Marathi, also alleged to have paid for high TRP (Television Rating Point) along with Republic, were also called to join the probe.
“However, he [Sundaram] did not appear before the probe team. He informed the police that the channel has approached the Supreme Court and that there will be a hearing on the matter within a week. Citing this, he requested the police not to record his statement,” an official was quoted as saying by PTI.
On Friday, the police said it will write to the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) seeking details of any suspicious activity on the part of a few other channels, including India Today.
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While India Today had been named in the FIR as a channel that allegedly made payments to Hansa Research Group, which calculates TRP for BARC, to get high TRP, the Mumbai police on Friday said that purely on the basis of the interrogation of the accused, prima facie it does not appear that India Today was involved in the alleged scam.
So far, based on the questioning of the two arrested accused – Vishal Bhandari (21) and Bompally Rao alias Sanju Rao (44) – the police have sought details of Republic, Box Cinemas and Fakt Marathi from BARC. “There was unusual activity in the TRPs of all the three channels,” said a senior IPS officer.
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The police said the tinkering of the TRP in the current case first came to light after BARC found some unusual readings earlier this year. During an internal investigation, it found that Hansa employee Vishal Bhandari was involved in tampering readings.
In fact, Hansa has found that Bhandari had two BAR-o-meters (installed in televisions in selected households to measure TRP) set up at his father’s residence. Sources said while Hansa had asked him to quit in June, the company did not file a police complaint at the time.
The police said that this information reached one of their officers earlier this week. Based on this, it carried out an investigation and detained Bhandari. “When we informed Hansa officials about it, they said that their earlier audit report had shown that Bhandari was tinkering with the system. In his statement to the police, the deputy general manager of Hansa said that as per their audit report, Bhandari had asked people to keep India Today switched on to increase TRP,” said an officer.
“However, when we questioned Bhandari, he took the names of Republic, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinemas… Even of the four persons whose statements were recorded, who were allegedly paid by Hansa, three denied that they were asked to watch India Today. The fourth person changed her statement about having been asked to watch the channel. All of them have named these three channels,” the officer added.
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