The ‘Fake TRP scandal’ has stirred a hornet’s nest ever since Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh did a press conference on the 8th of October to claim that Republic TV was involved in paying people to watch Republic TV and thus, illegally manipulating their TRP rating. However, it was revealed soon enough that the FIR filed actually named India Today and not Republic TV for TRP manipulation. After Parambir Singh proceeded to tie himself up in knots, India Today too has now resorted to lying and twisting the statements of a witness in the case who had admitted to Republic TV yesterday that her son was asked to watch India Today to increase their ratings.
In a tweet that was posted by India Today this morning, the channel said, “India today accesses an eyewitness account of a TV barometer holder, says was offered Rs 400 monthly payment if she played Republic on Television”.
Attached, was an audio clip where their Executive Editor, Sahil Joshi, was heard talking to Tejal Solanki, the same witness who had given a sound byte to Republic TV yesterday implicating India Today in the fake TRP scam.
#TRPScam | India today accesses an eyewitness account of a TV barometer holder, says was offered Rs 400 monthly payment if she played Republic on Television. Listen in— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) October 9, 2020
(@sahiljoshii) #ITVideo pic.twitter.com/j6KQi8UGEU
The video clip starts with an India Today news anchor lying blatantly. She claims that the Mumbai Police had confirmed that it was indeed Republic TV that was named in the FIR and not India Today. However, this is far from the truth. It was India Today itself that had got the phone byte of the Joint Commissioner who had admitted that India Today was named in the FIR. He had, however, said that witness examined since then had named Republic TV and hence, they were investigating the channel. Even in that statement, there were several problematic assertions and discrepancies where the Mumbai Police were trying themselves up in knots. We had discussed that statement threadbare here.
After the India Today anchor lies blatantly, the Executive Editor proceeds to manipulate a ‘Dara hua witness’ Tejal Solanki. It is to be kept in mind that after speaking to Republic TV yesterday, on the 8th of October, Tejas was heard being extremely scared. Towards the end of the conversation, the Republic TV reporter had told Tejal that he will send a reporter to her house the next day so she could give a byte. However, Tejal kept wondering if she would get into trouble for telling Republic TV the truth and naming India Today.
Further, she had told Republic not the send a camera crew because she did not want to be on television. Essentially, when Tejal was talking to Republic TV, it was evident that she is extremely nervous and does not want to get into trouble. However, she did name India Today explicitly and said that her son was approached to watch the channel.
When one hears the conversation between India Today journalist and Tejal in the current context, it becomes clear that the channel was trying to manipulate words out of a witness who was extremely scared.
In the first segment, Tejal Solanki says that she was getting calls from Republic TV after 10 PM to talk about India Today, but she does not have India Today subscribed. India Today in a futile attempt, re-emphasises that to mean that at the time that scam was conducted, she did not have India Today subscribed. Now, we don’t know when she subscribed or unsubscribed, but based on that conversation, for India Today to exonerate itself is rather hilarious. Tejal nowhere says that at the time she was approached for the TRP scam, she did not have India Today subscribed.
Here is the funniest aspect of the conversation though. When Sahil Joshi asked Tejal whether India Today had paid her to watch their channel, Tejal categorically says “Nobody has ever paid us and we can send a screenshot if you wish”.
Now, while Tejal says in the conversation that nobody has ever paid her to watch any channel, India Today takes this conversation to claim that the witness has said that she was paid Rs 400 to watch Republic TV.
Further, it must be remembered that while she spoke to Republic TV and implicated India Today a day before, she never mentioned any financial remuneration to begin with. So, to ask her a question saying that she had said she got money to watch India Today is completely absurd since she never claimed in her conversation with India Today that she or her son got money. What the real allegation is can only be revealed if an honest investigation is done.
It is important to mention here, however, that the FIR itself says that money was paid to watch India Today for 2 hours daily.
Then, India Today proceeds to tie itself up in knots further. The journalist asks Tejal whether she has ever got a call to watch India Today, to which, she says no. However, when she is asked if someone called ‘Vishal’ called her up to watch India Today, she says that Vishal used to come to their house with the Bar-o-meter people. Essentially, thanks to India Today, the contents of the FIR filed were confirmed beyond doubt, even though Tejal was too scared to admit in plain words.
It is important to note that following the complaint, Relationship Manager of the company Vishal Bhandari was arrested by Mumbai police. During the investigation, revealed that India Today and other channels instigated him and offered money to households with the meters to keep their TV tuned to those channels.
Moreover, he revealed that a person named Vinay asked Bhandari in November 2019 to approach 5 homes and ask them to watch India Today daily for 2 hours. The FIR filed in the case reads “Today on 6th October 2020, Assistant Police Inspector, Mr. Kazi, has informed me that, Basis on the secret information received, they arrested Vishal Ved Bhandari, House no.6, Kashinath Khandu Bhandari Chawl, BMC Quarters, Chincholi, N B Road, Malad (W), Mumbai 400097, During the inquiry, he informed that he is working with Hansa Research Group Private Limited as a Relationship Manager, he also informed that to increase the TRP of India Today and several other channels, he used to instigate and offer money to panel homes, where BAR-o-Meter installed with the help of other several people. They asked me to visit their office for more understanding.”
The FIR further states in November 2019, Vishal had received a call from an unknown person named Mr Vinay. Vinay asked him to approach 5 panel homes in Mumbai to ask them to watch the India Today channel daily for 2 hours. Later Vinay met Vishal and gave him Rs 1000 to distribute among the 5 panel homes, and also game Rs 5000 as a commission for the act. Accordingly, Vishal did the malpractice for 7 months from November 2019 to May 2020. He approached the 5 panel homes, asked them to watch the channel for 2 hours daily.
It was also confirmed by Vishal that the audit team had visited one of the panel homes, and the household had confirmed that they were paid to watch the India Today for minimum 2 hours per day.
These are the contents of the FIR which have even been owned up to by the Mumbai Police Commissioner. Thus, when Tejal admits to Vishal visiting her home, she essentially confirms the contents of the FIR completely.
Then, Sahil attempts another chicanery. He asks Tejal again whether someone from India Today ever called her to get her to watch the channel. However, that was never the allegation in the first place. The allegation was that Vishal had approached them to watch India Today. Hence, getting a direct call from India Today was never the contention and hence, Tejal saying nobody from India Today called her is not an exoneration of India Today or an indictment of Republic TV.
The tallest feat of peddling absolute lies that India Today saying that Tejal had admitted to getting Rs 400 for watching Republic TV when in the entire conversation, she had never even remotely mentioned anything of the kind.
It is evident that India Today is desperate to exonerate themselves after their tirade against Republic TV fell flat on its face and it turned out, that they were the accused in the FIR and not Republic TV or Arnab Goswami. However, in this age of social media and instant information, it is laughable that India Today would try and pull such a stunt where their blatant lies can be debunked rather easily and quickly.