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TRP manipulation case: CBI files charge sheet against ex-BARC CEO Sunil Lulla

Lulla is booked under  406 (criminal breach of trust), Section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), Section 465 ( Punishment for forgery), Section 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating) and Section 477 (Fraudulently destroying or defacing, or attempting to destroy or deface, or secreting, a will, etc.) of the Indian Penal Code.

On December 13, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer said in a statement that the investigation agency had filed the charge sheet against the former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sunil Lulla, for his role in the alleged manipulation of the viewership rating of the channel during his tenure at the rating agency. Earlier, it was reported by Exchange4Media that Lulla was summoned by the agency. However, his spokesperson denied all allegations.

During an investigation based on a Lucknow-based advertiser’s complaint, the investigation agency found that the channels did not do any manipulation at the customer level. The manipulation of the TV rating took place when Lulla was heading BARC. Lulla has denied the charges levelled against him. As per the Indian Express report, the sources did not provide further details of the charge sheet as the special court has not taken cognizance of the same.

Lulla is booked under  406 (criminal breach of trust), Section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), Section 465 ( Punishment for forgery), Section 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating) and Section 477 (Fraudulently destroying or defacing, or attempting to destroy or deface, or secreting, a will, etc.) of the Indian Penal Code. Except Section 465, all the Sections are non-bailable. The court is scheduled to hear the matter and take cognizance of the charge sheet on December 15, the sources informed the Indian Express.

A spokesperson for Lulla said, “Sunil Lulla has been a high-integrity professional in his entire career and has an unblemished track record. His conduct has been as per BARC policies and procedures, and all the allegations against him are false. We completely believe in the rule of law and the Honourable courts.”

Sunil Lulla and TRP manipulation case

In January 2021, Enforcement Directorate summoned Sunil Lulla’s team in the TRP case as there were inconsistencies in their statements. Notably, in documents received by OpIndia related to the matter, there were incriminating details which raised eyebrows on BARC’s veracity in presenting an accurate picture of TRP of channels. We reported how 2016 internal BARC emails clearly hinted that BARC might not be working to present an accurate picture of TRP in the first place and is deeply open to data being rigged and results being flawed.

Furthermore, it was reported that then-BARC CEO Lulla responded to Republic TV’s email confirming that the Council had not found any violations against the channel and has, therefore not initiated any action against it. The statement also included that there had been no disciplinary action initiated against the Republic Media Network and that they would have been given a prior intimation to the channel if that were the case.

‘Fake TRP’ scam

In October 2020, Mumbai CP Param Bir Singh, in an explosive statement accused Republic TV of ‘TRP manipulation’. In a witch hunt attack against Republic TV and Arnab Goswami, the Mumbai Commissioner had claimed, that the channel had illegally paid some households to keep some channels on even if they were not at home to boost their TRP.

The Mumbai Police had filed a complaint against three channels namely Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema, and Republic-TV for manipulating television rating points (TRPs). 

However, by the end of the day, it was revealed that in the original FIR, Republic TV did not find a mention anywhere. In fact, it was India Today that had been named in the original FIR. Later, the Joint Commissioner had to admit even India Today was named in the ‘Fake TRP’ FIR.

Following this development, Republic TV also accessed the complaint filed by Hansa Research, the agency that manages the BARC bar-o-meter devices installed at panel houses, which had shown that they had mentioned India Today, not Republic. After that, Mumbai Police is continuously hounding and harassing the channel to know from where they accessed the report, while they have effectively burried the case against India Today.

What is TRP, and how is it calculated

TRP of Television Rating Points is the system to measure the popularity of a channel or a programme based on the ‘Bar-O-Meters’ installed at around 45,000 households across the country by BARC. These ratings help the advertisers to make a firm decision on which channel and during which show they want to promote their products or services.

The devices installed by BARC collect information on the programmes and TV channels watched at every household where they are installed. Based on this information BARC issues weekly ratings of the programmes and channels. The complainant registered the case at Hazratganj Police Station in Lucknow. Later, it was handed over to the CBI by the Uttar Pradesh Government.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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