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TRP scam: Times Now claims BARC fudged its ratings, sends legal notice

The channel demands Rs 431 in compensation from the ratings agency.

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NEW DELHI: Bennet Coleman and Company has sent a legal notice to the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) alleging illegal and fraudulent viewership data manipulation, and tampering of television rating points (TRP) of its English news channel Times Now.

The company has also sought for a compensation of over Rs 400 crore for the same. The notice alleged that the ratings of the channel were deliberately manipulated 2017 onwards to give benefit to a "newly launched channel."

The legal notice placed reliance on external forensic audit reports dated 24 July 2020 and 1 December 2020, and findings of the Mumbai police chargesheet in the TRP scam case and the press conference in relation to the investigation.

It stated that the forensic audit report of July 2020 furnished by BARC had made it evidently clear that "activities resulting in viewership malpractices and TRP manipulation were undertaken by BARC with a malafide intention to biasedly cause wrongful losses to some of its subscribers whilst other co-conspiring subscribers benefitted of the malicious acts."

"Times Now is operating in India for over 15 years and is popular amongst its viewers and advertisers due to good programming content, packaging and provision of timely news updates with a very wide reach throughout the country with honest and fearless reporting," the notice contended.

The legal notice, a copy of which is available with Indiantelevision.com, stated that as per BARC's viewership data spanning 44 weeks during 2017-2018 submitted to the Mumbai police, Times Now was number one and its viewership was "manipulated, fudged for giving undue benefit to a newly launched competitor channel in 2017." This alleged manipulation has "considerably and adversely impacted the revenue, growth, reputation, goodwill and image of Times now channel and the Times Group at the national and international level."

It also alleged that even after realising this gross misreporting of an entire genre for a protracted period, BARC kept the matter under wraps and took no concrete action against the perpetrators.

The channel further contended that by providing wrong data for years together, even after receiving a huge licensing fee from Times Now, BARC is in complete breach of all obligations, under the EULAs, MIB guidelines and its own regulations.

In view of this, the notice stated, "BARC is not only liable for civil action to be initiated against them, but it is also liable to be prosecuted for serious cognisable criminal offenses of cheating, criminal breach of trust, forgery, causing disappearance of evidence, harbouring offender and criminal conspiracy."

Apart from the compensation of Rs 431 crores along with the license fee of Rs 21.83 crores with interest at the rate of 18 per cent per annum, it also sought a press statement on BARC's website to immediately clarify that as per its viewership data, "Times Now was the number one channel and undisputed leader in English news genre from 2017-2019."

It also sought a disciplinary action against the errant broadcasters/channels and BARC officials who were allegedly involved in the fraudulent activities mentioned in the notice.

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