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TRP scam: Times Network to take legal action against BARC

Times Network claimed to have suffered huge financial losses & irreparable damage to its reputatio

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MUMBAI: L'affaire TV ratings continues. In yet another sudden turn in the TRP manipulation case, the Times Network is gearing up to take legal action against the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) for allegedly colluding with Republic TV to misreport viewership ratings and giving the channel "undue advantage." 

In an official statement, the Times Network cited the Mumbai police's findings from investigation into the so-called ratings racket to state that "proof had been unearthed exposing manipulation by BARC officials for the benefit of Republic TV." Further, the channel said that the leaked WhatsApp chats between Republic TV MD & editor-in-chief and former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta make it clear that "Times Now's TRPs were indeed manually reduced by former BARC officials" and Republic TV was fraudulently declared the top broadcaster in the news genre. 

"Due to this unacceptable and unpardonable act of BARC, Times Network has suffered huge financial losses and irreparable damage to its reputation/ goodwill. Times Network/ BCCL is contemplating all possible legal actions against BARC for non-redressal of its grievances, as available in law for wrongful loss caused," the statement read. 

The network further shared that since 2017 and especially after the launch of Republic TV in May 2017, Times Network suspected large scale manipulation of ratings pertaining to illegal usage of multiple LCNs and out of electronic program guide (EPG) placement by Republic TV.

“We also found significant abnormalities in market wise ratings of that channel clearly indicating ground level tampering and/ or deliberate intervention at the raw data level to favour them. Times Network repeatedly complained about these irregularities to BARC for almost two years but got no resolution as the complaints routinely resulted in stock replies,” it alleged.

Accusing BARC of “breach of trust”, Times Network claimed that the agency took no action against any of the perpetrators and deliberately kept the matter under wraps  until the probe by law enforcement agencies opened up the entire can of worms.   

“It is worth pondering as to whether such a board and management can indeed preside over a system which puts out ratings that impact ad spends worth over Rs 30,000 crore per annum and impacts the livelihoods of thousands of employees engaged in the broadcast sector,” it said. 

The Mumbai police on 8 October 2020 had made the sensational claim of cracking a “major racket” active in manipulating TV ratings. Three channels were named in the initial press conference – Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema, and Republic TV. Following this, a major controversy erupted with all news channels calling out Goswami and his channels. On its part, Republic TV has maintained that it committed no wrongdoing, and the case was an exercise in vendetta by the Mumbai police.  15 arrests have been made in the case, with the former head of BARC Partho Dasgupta currently remanded in judicial custody.

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