Hyderabad: Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie Channel accused in Television Rating Points (TRP) scam, has come under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate. The investigating agency has attached properties of worth Rs 32 Crore across Mumbai, Indore, Delhi and Gurgaon belonging to the three.

TRP indicates popularity of a particular TV channel or a programme and this enables advertisers to understand viewership patterns of the channel. These points become an important aspect on which advertisement ( one form of revenue) is allocated to any channel and determines the revenue generation of Television channels. Thus, manipulation of TRP becomes a tool for generating greater advertisement revenue.

ED began a probe against Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie after the Mumbai Police registered a case.

How the 3 channels illegally increased their TRPs

It was found that the management of these channels installed People Meters (devices) also called as 'Bar-O-Meters' at certain places/households (approximately 1800 in Mumbai and 44000 in India). The devices were installed on a proportionate basis to mimic the viewership pattern of '197 million households in India' for capturing viewership of various channels of different genres and languages in selected homes.

Originally, these Bar-o-meters were installed for 'Broadcast Audio Research Council' by Hansa (BARC who decides the household). The installation is handled by a third party agency known as HANSA Research group Limited), Employees (Relationship managers) of Hansa and not channels.

But, ED's investigation found that confidential information of the households where Bar-o-meter are installed was revealed by the Relationship Managers to various people primarily belonging to TV channel management. This was illegally leaked for personal monetary gains. "The households were bribed and induced to watch specific channels in order to amplify the TRPs. This fraudulently enhanced the points for the Television channel. And on the basis of 'rigged TRP', advertisers were deceived and advertised on the channel which would not have been otherwise done" ED Officials said.

Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie, had entered into a criminal conspiracy with relationship managers to manipulate the Television Rating Points (TRPs). By this, the trio channels garnered enhanced advertisement revenue. "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 approx. 12 % of viewership of Mumbai, '' the investigation found.

The probe also revealed that with rigged TRPs, these channels would illegally generate revenue to the tune of Rs 46.77 Crore.

Coreena Suares

Coreena Enet Suares is the Editor of NewsMeter. Her stories have been published in the Deccan Chronicle Newspaper and the Asian Age. Coreena began her career as a News Anchor. Throughout her journey, she has been able to build a strong network with people from all walks of life. She is an alumnus of Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists- Research and Investigation, a flagship initiative of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Coreena is also a certified fact-checker by Google India Initiative. She has attended the 'Defence Correspondents Course 2019, through which she visited Indo- Pak border, besides traveling on a War-ship and insight into operations of Fighter aircraft. Coreena's focus areas are anti-crime investigation agencies and Defence reporting.

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