"we found there was more money in these accounts"
After Bollywood associations and production companies filed a lawsuit against media channels, a TRP scam has now come to light.
TRP, which stands for Television Rating Points, have allegedly been manipulated by three channels by soliciting viewers to watch these channels in exchange for payment.
The alleged manipulation of TRP can cause trouble for Indian TV as it could lead to anomalies when it comes to content, such as viewership.
In addition, it has an influence on advertisers’ spending. The alleged manipulation means that advertisers are investing money in channels that do not have the viewership that they claim.
As a result, channels get higher revenues while advertisers are cheated.
On October 12, 2020, police arrested former Hansa Research employee Vinay Tripathi. Officers believe that he paid Vishal Bhandari, who the first arrest in the case, for manipulating TRPs.
Hansa measures the TRPs of various channels.
In addition, two senior officials at Hansa gave statements in relation to the case.
According to police, Tripathi worked as a relationship manager at Hansa.
One officer said: “As soon as he came to know about the arrest of Bhandari, he fled.”
It was alleged that Tripathi had asked Bhandari to get at least five households to watch a particular news channel for two hours daily.
Tripathi paid Bhandari a total of Rs. 1,000 (£10) as commission to be paid to the households. Meanwhile, Bhandari received Rs. 5,000 (£52).
A neighbour said of Bhandari: “He is just a 21-year-old who kept to himself. He was one of the few youngsters from our area who can speak English. He was in third year BCom. He had joined just a few months back.
“How could he carry this out on his own? His father Ved works as a driver and is generally out all day.”
Following his arrest, police found two barometers at his home. It is claimed that they had been installed to monitor ratings.
The official added: “We are hoping that the questioning of Tiwari will help them clarify which channels were involved in rigging TRP’s.
“We recorded the supplementary statement of the complainant in the case, Nitin Deokar, who is deputy general manager with Hansa in addition to the Hansa CEO’s statement.”
Police also seized four bank accounts belonging to Fakt Marathi and Box Cinemas, two of the three channels allegedly involved in the TRP scam.
Another officer explained: “After scrutinising the bank details, we found there was more money in these accounts than what could be substantiated prima facie.
“A forensic auditing of these accounts will be carried out to ascertain the money flow.”
The bank account details which belong to Republic TV are also being investigated.
The alleged TRP scam was subtly mentioned by Salman Khan during Bigg Boss 14. The Bollywood actor took a dig at the channels allegedly involved.
He said while speaking to the contestants: “You have to play the right game in Bigg Boss or any other show. You can’t do anything for TRP.
“From Day-1, I have never seen the response you are getting. Be honest and real to strike it big and make it better.”
“One should not speak nonsense, lie and shout. This is not the point. They will shut your channel.”
Salman added: “What I wanted to say, I have said indirectly.”
This alleged TRP scam has raised questions about the value of the existing template of appraisal of the TV audience.
It has now highlighted the potential greed of Indian television channels who have allegedly manipulated TRPs for more viewers and more revenue.