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The game of TRP

BARC is the sole agency in India which looks after TRP ratings for television programs and TV channels under the guidance of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) & Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. TRP is basically a Television Rating Point. It is the tool to evaluate the relative viewership of various channels. It indicates the popularity of a TV channel or a programme. TRP enables advertisers and investors to understand the mood of the people as well as the mass base/viewership pattern of a particular group. It is pertinent to mention that TRP is used in marketing and advertising to ascertain the percentage of the target audience reached by a campaign or advertisement through Televisions. Hence it is a means that indicates the popularity of a programme or a channel. To measure the TRP, BARC used to install Bar-O-Meter in specified locations. For Mumbai & Maharashtra, Hansa Group was authorized on behalf of BARC for installation and maintenance of Bar-O-Meters at specified locations.

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An FIR was lodged bearing no. 843/2020 dated 06.10.2020 under sections under 409, 420, 120B and 34 of Indian Penal Code was registered at Kandivali Police station, Mumbai on the basis of the complaint filed by DGM Nitin Deokar of Hansa Group against Relationship Manager Vishal Ved Bhandari of Hansa Group, mentioning that the former was involved in the work of raising TRP of India Today Channel by convincing Households to watch that Channel. In the FIR, it has been stated that Hansa Group is Research Company engaged by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) for installation of Barometer and looking after the same.

On 11.06.2020, the audit team of Hansa Group visited House belonging to Shri Ved Prakash Bhandari and found that there was one extra Bar-O-Meter in the said premises. On further enquiry (from the household) it was revealed that Vishal Bhandari S/o of Shri Vedprakash Bhandari is working as Relationship Manager in Hansa Group. It was also found that one Vinay Tripathi had called Vishal Bhandari and informed that if he (Vishal) can manage minimum 5 houses, where the barometers have been installed to see India Today news channel for minimum 2 hrs every day, then he as well as the household would get commission. Thereafter, Vinay Tripathi handed over Rs.1000 as commission for the household members to Vishal Bhandari along with providing Rs.5000 as his commission. Vishal Bhandari misused his official position as Relationship Officer and took money for personal gain and with malice intention entered into criminal conspiracy to cheat/ attempt to cheat and also to commit the offence of criminal breach of trust and in the process gain wrongfully by manipulating TRP.

Furthermore, Mumbai Police has filed chargesheet against 13 persons on 24.11.2020, who were working as Relationship Managers of Hansa Group, Agents and certain Channel owners. As per the chargesheet filed, it is alleged that the accused persons have connived and conspired to manipulate the TRPs of certain TV Channels including Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Mahamovie. In this regard, it appeared that the illegal usage of confidential information by Relationship Managers of Hansa Group to identify and pay monthly amounts to Panel Households (wherein Bar-O-Meters of BARC installed) to watch specific channels. Additionally, Enforcement Directorate also lodged a separate case vide ECIR/MBZO-I/41/2021 dated 23.11.2020 under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act(PMLA), against Shri Vishal Ved Bhandari and others under Section 120-B read with 420 of the Indian Penal Code. The detailed investigation of PMLA reveals that a substantial percentage of viewership of channels viz. Maha Movie, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema Channel were coming from just a handful of compromised HHs catered by Relationship Managers namely S/Shri Umesh Mishra, Vikas Burungale, Ashwin Motiwale,Shri Dinesh Vishwakarma, Shri Mahesh Bompalli,Shri Rajesh Vishwakarma and Shri Vishal Bhandari. It is observed that just 5 Households are contributing total 24.79% of all Mumbai households viewership of Maha Movie Channel, just 5 Households are contributing total 11.69% of all Mumbai households viewership of Fakt Marathi Channel and just 5 Households are contributing total 25.09% of all Mumbai households viewership of Box Cinema Channel.

Thus, the amount received by Fakt Marathi channel (29.66 Cr), Mahamovie channel (15.03 Cr) and Box Cinema (2.08 Cr) is Proceeds of Crime (PoC) in terms of PMLA, 2002 which was acquired illegally on the basis manipulation of the TRPs rating by conniving with the relationship managers (RMs) and bribing the households to raise the TRP, which in turn helped in getting the revenue, which otherwise would not have been possible. Furthermore, it also appears that Sh. Bompally, prop. Of M/s Sanch Media, received monies from the channel owners to manipulate the TRPs. These monies were further utilized by Sh. Bompally and the Ex-RMs/RMs of Hansa Research to give commission of the panel households to watch the said channels in order to manipulate the TRPs as well as for their personal benefit. Therefore, the monies received from the channel owners was used in the commission of the scheduled offences and therefore, are proceeds of crime in terms of Explanation to Section 2 (1)(v) of the PMLA, 2002.

Agency thus came to the conclusion that various channel owners including Narayan Nandkishore Sharma, Shirish Pattanshetty, Manish Singhal, Darshan Singh and Vishwajeet have committed the offence of Money Laundering whereas the relationship managers including Umesh Mishra, Vishal Ved Bhandari, Dinesh Vishwakarma, Vikas Burungale, Mahesh Bompalli, Ashwin Motiwale and Rajesh Vishwakarma for their knowingly assistance to the channel owners are equally involved in the entire act and have also committed the offence of money laundering in terms of section 3 of PMLA, 2002. Accordingly, the entire Revenue generated by the said three channels during the manipulation of TRP period for the said channels constitutes proceeds of crime in terms of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. Further investigation is going on. Goa Chronicle

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