The Enforcement Directorate today attached properties belonging to three television channels in the TRP manipulation case. In a statement issued by the central probe agency, it was informed that immovable and movable properties of Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie were attached by ED in the case.
The attached properties include land, commercial and residential units in Mumbai, Indore, Delhi and Gurgaon and balances in bank account totaling to Rs. 32 Crore. Investigations have revealed that the Proceeds of Crime for these channels is to the tune of Rs 46 Crore, according to the ED. Importantly, the ED didn’t name Republic TV in its statement, the channel which has been targeted by Mumbai police in the case.
The ED said that during investigation it was found that some employees of Hansa Research had revealed the information about households where BARC Bar-O-Meters are installed, and the channels had tried to use this information for their own benefit. The channels bribed the households to watch their channels, thereby fraudulently increasing their viewership as measured by the BARC.
It may be noted that BARC selects the households where the Bar-O-Meters are to be installed, and the private company Hans Research installs the devices in the selected households. The company also does the servicing of the devices. Thus, Hans employees had access to this confidential information.
ED said that Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie, had entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat and committed the offence of criminal breach of trust, forgery in order to gain wrongfully by manipulating Television Rating Points (TRPs) of these Television Channels. Thus, by fraudulently enhancing the TRP ratings, these channels have garnered enhanced advertisement revenue, as TRP ratings are used to determine the rate the channels can charge for advertisements.
“In two of these channels; just 5 compromised households were contributing to approximately 25% of the viewership of Mumbai for the relevant period and for the third channel, 5 compromised households were contributing to approximately 12 % of viewership of Mumbai,” the ED statement stated.
Accordingly, the movable and immovable properties of the owners/entities of the channels have been attached to the tune of Rs. 32 Crore against the total Proceeds of Crime to the tune of Rs. 46.77 Crore generated during the manipulation period of TRP of the channels under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. Further investigation is in progress.
In another development today in the high profile case, the Bombay High Court slammed the Mumbai police for continuing probe against Republic TV in the case and not finding any against them for months. The court said that the police can’t keep the sword hanging over the channel in the case, as police have not named the channel as an accused, despite filing two charge sheets against it.
ED is also probing India Today TV in the case, as the original complaint filed by Hansa Research against its employee who was selling the confidential data, and the FIR registered in the case, had named India Today, along with the above mentioned channels. Even though Republic TV was not named in the complaint and the FIR, Mumbai Police tried hard to make the channel and its owner-editor Arnab Goswami the main accused in the case.