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31-sec lock: Chargesheet on how channels, cable operators fixed TRPs

According to norms for calculating TRPs, a viewer has to spend over 30 seconds watching a particular channel for it to be awarded a rating point.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | November 26, 2020 2:06:32 am
“Many were called for questioning and we came to know that people working in BARC are also involved. As we investigated further, Ramgarhia's role was identified,” said an officer.

In its chargesheet filed in the TRP scam, the Mumbai police have said that some cable operators had been asked to lock certain channels for 31 seconds so that viewers would not be able to change channels for that duration, thus contributing to television rating points for channels.

According to norms for calculating TRPs, a viewer has to spend over 30 seconds watching a particular channel for it to be awarded a rating point.

Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze from the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU), involved in preparing the 1,400-page chargesheet filed on Tuesday, told The Indian Express, “Some cable operators had been told to lock Republic for 31 seconds. So if you were surfing channels, you would get stuck on this channel for 31 seconds. This would count as a TRP for the channel.”

The officer said they have alerted Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) about the behaviour of these cable operators and that notices had been served to them.

He added, “Prior to May 2019, even the landing page of a cable — the page that comes up once you switch on your TV —was illegally purchased by some of these channels. Earlier, TRAI had prohibited channels from buying landing pages. However in May 2019, purchasing of the landing page was made legal by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).”

The chargesheet detailed how Republic had allegedly used dual Logical Channel Number (LCN), whereby its two news channels would show up in the genre of ‘kids channels’, apart from the ‘news channels’ category, thus showing up at two places.

The Crime Branch alleged these were malpractices that were revealed during the interrogation of Ghanshyam Singh, Republic’s Assistant VP (Distribution), who was arrested in the case. He has applied for bail.

Apart from Singh, the chargesheet names 11 other persons as accused, including five former employees of

Hansa Research Group that measures TRPs on behalf of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).

Apart from the 12 persons who were charged, the chargesheet mentions “owners/directors and/ or people related to them linked to Republic TV channels, News Nation” as wanted accused in the case, but have not named anyone.

Owners of Maha Movies and Wow music channel have been summoned for questioning. Owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinemas had been arrested earlier.

Police have accused six channels, including two news channels, of rigging TRPs.

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