The Cyber Crime Police in Bengaluru, acting on a complaint filed by the Broadcast Research Council of India (BARC), has arrested five people allegedly for trying to tamper with the television viewership data generated and reported by BARC every week.
The five arrested include a TV serial producer Raju and four others – Suresh, Jemsy, Subhash and Madhu. The five men allegedly approached the people in whose houses the BARC’s bar-o-meters are installed and asked them to watch a particular show at a particular time in lieu of incentives. The five arrested are currently in judicial custody.
This is the first time that the Cyber Crime Police have taken action against anyone for this reason.
Raju allegedly used to approach the producers and offer them to increase the viewership numbers of their serials against a good amount of money.
“An FIR was registered in this regard and during the course of investigation, it was found that a group of people were involved in illegally hiking the TRP by using multiple televisions and also by paying a small sum to those people in whose houses the TRP meter would be installed, and asking them to watch a particular channel at a particular time. On getting credible information, police arrested the five accused. Investigations revealed that Raju and his team were working for it. Also, this year, BARC had given a contract to a new firm to install the TRP meters. The role of staff in that firm is also being investigated,” the Bengaluru police told The New Indian Express.
In September 2017, BARC had urged the TRAI and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to bring in legislations making TV viewership data tamper-proof and stipulate stringent penalties for offenders.
Over the last 18 months, several instances have come to light where TV channels were found to be allegedly attempting to tamper and influence audience data and indulging in other malpractices to boost viewership or TV ratings points, as it’s popularly described in India. In some cases, BARC India undertook counter-measures resulting in alleged offenders taking legal recourse. In some other instances, the regulator had to issue warnings in an effort to do damage control.