MUMBAI: One of the key accused arrested in the television rating point (TRP) manipulation scam, Vishal Bhandari, had asked some of the ‘sample audience’ to keep India Today channel on in their homes, the Mumbai police quoting his former employers stated in their remand application submitted in a court here.
Police are looking for one Rocky who they allege asked Bhandari to rig the viewership of Republic TV.
Police filed the remand application seeking custody of Bhandari and another accused, Bompelli Mistri. Both have been remanded in police custody till October 13. Four people have been arrested in the case so far.
Bhandari was a relationship manager with Hansa Research, a firm contracted by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to place peoplemeters to monitor TV channels that are watched in households. In the remand application, police stated that during Hansa’s internal auditing, they had recorded statements of a witness, Tejal Solanki, and a few others who said Bhandari had asked them to keep India Today channel on for at least two hours.
Denying the charges, India Today said in a statement, “There is a malicious campaign right now by a few vested interests to drag the name of India Today group into the TRP scandal…What we are currently seeing is an attempt by RTV, the main accused in the ratings manipulation case, to deflect the blame to other networks to hide their own criminal wrongdoing.”
On the mention of India Today in the FIR, the statement said, “We had no prior knowledge of the FIR nor do we know or have dealings with the arrested accused.” The statement also quoted city police commissioner as saying the police have found evidence to suggest Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema have been systematically manipulating the TRP system.
The development came a day after Mumbai police issued a late-night clarification on Thursday saying that though India Today’s name finds a mention in the FIR, they had not found any evidence against the channel. On Friday, police reiterated they had not found any evidence against India Today.
The city police had on Thursday said they had busted a racket where three channels, including Republic TV, manipulated TRPs, a measure of viewership that advertisers use in their planning, and arrested four people.
Police arrested Shirish Shetty, proprietor of Fakht Marathi, Narayan Sharma, owner of Box Cinema, Vishal Bhandari, and a private person, Bompalli Rao Mistri. Two of the accused were remanded in custody on Thursday.
The remand application, quoting Mistri, said he used to pay Bhandari Rs 20,000 every month to manipulate the viewership in 8 to 10 households. Mistri also said Bhandari used to pay Rs 400 to 500 per month to households for watching Box Cinema and Fakht Marathi channels. Police said they’re looking for one Rocky who allegedly asked Bhandari to pay the household to keep watching Republic TV on a fixed