"Khanchandani is the country head of the channel"
On December 13, 2020, Mumbai Police’s crime branch arrested TV executive Vikas Khanchandani in connection with the Television Rating Points (TRP) scam.
Allegations of TV companies manipulating rating points have been prevalent in India and it has led to multiple arrests.
Khanchandani, who is the CEO of Republic TV, became the 13th person arrested in the case.
Following his arrest, he has been remanded in custody until December 15, 2020.
Police say he is the beneficiary of the scam and had knowledge of the crime. Police also recovered his laptop.
Khanchandani’s lawyer, Abad Ponda, told the court that his client was arrested a day before his anticipatory bail was to be heard.
He said: “The arrest is only to prevent him from arguing his case on Monday. The prosecution knew that a holiday court would not grant him bail and hence, he was arrested on Sunday.”
Officials had been investigating Ghanshyam Singh’s role when Khanchandani’s name appeared.
The remand application stated: “During investigations, it came to light that Singh used to pay a monthly amount to Abhishek Kolawade of marketing company Max Media who, in turn, paid other accused and also households to watch Republic TV for a certain period of time to rig its TRPs.
“Khanchandani is the country head of the channel and is responsible for all routine work ranging from distribution to marketing of the channel and the illegal ways adopted by other accused in increasing the channel’s TRPs.”
The Sessions Court in Mumbai previously granted interim relief to Republic TV’s COO Priya Mukherjee, who had sought anticipatory bail.
The court directed Mukherjee “to be released on a personal bond of Rs. 50,000 (£500) in case of an arrest and asked her to appear before the concerned police station once every week”.
The remand application revealed that Mukherjee’s phone was seized and a WhatsApp group showed discussions involving Khanchandani about increasing TRPs.
“Police have seized Mukherjee’s mobile phone.
“Its examination showed that she was also in the WhatsApp chat group where the accused discussed illegal ways to increase the channel’s TRPs.”
The crime branch is currently investigating Republic TV, Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema, News Nation, Mahamovies and Wow for allegedly manipulating the viewership figures.
Viewership numbers are key for advertisers as more adverts mean more revenue.
The accused allegedly paid households with barometers to keep TV channels on in order to manipulate the figures.
The Times of India reported that following the arrest of the TV executive, police visited the homes of Republic TV’s chief financial officer Shiva Sundaram as well as employees Shivedu Mulhekar and Ranjit Walter, however, they were not home.