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Investors in Republic TV asked to join TRP probe

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MUMBAI: The Mumbai Police has summoned investors in Republic TV to join its probe in the television rating point (TRP) manipulation case.

According to sources, the city police’s crime branch, which is probing the case, has summoned owners of RPG Power Trading Ltd, Anant Udyog LLP, Purvanchal Leasing Ltd, Pan Capital Investment, and Dynamic Storage and Retrieval Systems Private Ltd to join the investigation on Friday.

Sources say an alleged one-time payment made by Hansa Research Group to Republic TV is under the scanner.

“Hansa has made a payment of 32 lakh to Republic TV. When the company’s (Hansa) director was questioned on the same, he claimed he wasn’t aware. However, when Republic TV CFO S Sundaram was asked about it, he accepted that the company had received a payment of 32 lakh from Hansa. But he couldn’t recall the details and promised to get back on the same,” said a senior police officer privy to the probe developments.

“Hansa is a vendor for BARC that installs bar-o-meters. The transaction, prima facie, seems to be of suspicious nature and hence, the two companies have been questioned and the transaction is being probed by the audit team,” added the official.

Messages sent to Hansa and Republic TV did not elicit a response till the time of going to press.

Hansa is also the complainant in the case.

“So far, the probe has revealed that advertisers and investors rely heavily on TRPs to decide which channel to bet on. The statements of the investors are an important link in the case. They will be asked as to what are the factors taken into consideration while deciding on investments,” said an official privy to the probe.

While the city police has claimed a notional loss of thousands of crores of rupees to advertisers due to alleged rigging of TRPs, the investigation is trying to ascertain the exact amount, as well as the companies — including both advertisers and investors, who were allegedly defrauded by the accused channels that allegedly got the TRPs rigged.

In a related development, one of the accused in the case, Umesh Mishra, recently wrote to the Mumbai Police stating that he wished to turn an approver. On Monday, the city police didn’t oppose his bail plea.

“A few days ago, while in jail custody, he wrote a letter to the crime branch requesting that he wants to disclose the facts in the case and help police unearth the conspiracy. He has agreed to turn an approver in the case. On Monday, the police didn’t object to his bail plea stating that he has been cooperating in the investigation. Following which he was granted bail by the court,” defence counsel KH Giri told ET.

In an earlier court filing reviewed by ET, the police had told the court that Mishra, who received money from other arrested accused, allegedly bribed households to watch Republic TV.

Ten people, including five former employees of Hansa, have been arrested in the case.

The police are investigating Republic TV, Fakt Marathi, News Nation, Maha Movie and Box Cinema for allegedly manipulating TRPs “by bribing households to increase the viewership of their channels/programmes so that subsequently their ratings increase, resulting in windfall economic benefit for the said channel/programmes”, according to the first information report. “A manipulated TRP rating results in several advertisers to part with huge money to undeserving channels, thereby causing unlawful losses to all the concerned parties.”

Viewership monitoring agency BARC India had authorised subsidiary Meterology Data to install and operate viewership meters through vendors, including Hansa Research Group. The allegation is that confidential information on the location of the metered television sets was leaked and viewers were paid to keep their sets tuned to specific channels.

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