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TRP scam: BARC ex-CEO named ‘mastermind’, accused of depressing rating of CNN-News18, other channels

The former BARC CEO has been accused of tampering TRP rating to boost ratings of one channel and depressing that its rivals including CNN-News18.

December 26, 2020 / 11:05 AM IST
Former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta.

Former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta.

Mumbai Police has named Partho Dasgupta, former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO as the ‘mastermind’ in the case related to alleged rigging of the Television Rating Points (TRP) by some TV channels. The BARC ex-CEO has been accused of conspiring to boost ratings of one news channel by depressing ratings of its rivals including CNN-News18.

He had been arrested by the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) of the Rajgad Police Station in Pune district and was to be produced before a court in Mumbai today. Dasgupta, who was the CEO from 2013 to 2019, is the 15th accused person to be arrested in the case. He will remain in custody till December 28.

Addressing a press conference on December 25, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh said: "A forensic audit report mentions some e-mails and chats between former top officials." Singh shared an excerpt of a chat between some of the former top officials that read: "Please find below an update on English News Channel for week... Times Now, CNN-News18 will be changed."

"While he (Dasgupta) was CEO, reportedly there were quite a few allegations about manipulation of viewership data as well as TRP. However, reportedly, those allegations made by different owners including some whistleblowers were suppressed. However, after the new dispensation took over, a third-party forensic audit of data was organised and that third-party audit submitted its report in July 2020. In our exchange of information with BARC regarding different subjects, we got a report as solicited by us."

As per the report, Singh said, the data for around 44 weeks was analysed in detail, especially in the genre of English and Telugu news, where manipulation was found to a great extent through the use of three methodologies.

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"In some cases, the ratings appeared to be pre-decided," the report noted, also pointing out to the cartelisation of some of the top ex-officials of BARC.

Commenting on Dasgupta’s indictment, a BARC spokesperson said on December 25: “The development related to ex-employees of BARC India is a part of an ongoing investigation for which BARC management continues to extend its support and cooperation to the law enforcement agencies.”

The spokesperson added: “Every employee of BARC India is expected to conform to a Code of Conduct and Ethics and any infringement invites suitable disciplinary action. We will continue to ensure that what India watches is reported accurately and with utmost integrity. It is a responsibility we owe all our stakeholders.”

Before Dasgupta, Ramil Ramgarhia, the former chief operating officer (COO) of BARC was also arrested in the case.

According to the police, relationship managers (RM) of Hansa Group -- a market research firm hired by BARC to measure TRP -- were paid to manipulate the sampling metering services by bribing bar-o-meter households to watch certain TV channels only. Such households were paid around Rs 500 per month to watch a particular channel.
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