TRP scam: Whom does the Hansa Research complaint name?
The TRP manipulation scam that came to light this week is snowballing into a major war zone between two prominent media houses. The whole episode came to light on October 8, 2020 when Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh revealed in a press conference about some channels manipulating TRPs. He had named Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema.
Mumbai Police has filed an FIR based on a complaint filed by Nitin Kashinath Deokar, who mentioned himself as ‘authorised representative of Hansa Research Group’. Hansa Research is currently undertaking panel home operations for BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council). The complaint states that Hansa Research undertakes the Panel Home Operations for MDL, which involves the work of Bar-0-Meter (meter installed to measured viewership of the panel home) installation at each of the Panel homes, and its maintenance.
Deokar’s complaint names two Hansa employees – Vishal Bhandari and Dinesh Vishwakarma – along with Unknown Persons. Providing details on how the entire scame came to light, Deokar narrates, “During the routine audit activities conducted in Mumbai region on June 11, 2020 at 4.45 PM, we have visited Mr Ved Bhandari’s house (HH ID - 60016554, KNET ID0010AP8D and DQA ID -3315876279) at House no.6, Kashinath Khandu Bhandari Chawl, Near BMC Quarter, N B Road, Chincholi, Malad West, Mumbai 400097 to understand their viewership pattern and during the discussion with the panel home members, we came to know that their son Mr Vishal Bhandari is working with Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd., also Audit team has found another meter lying in their residence.”
He added, “On June 17, 2020, Vishal visited BARC office at Parel and met Hansa Operations Manager (OM) and BARC Vigilance Team where he informed that:
- In November 2019, Vishal received a call from someone unknown person Mr. Vinay.
- Vinay asked him to approach the 5 (Five) panel homes in Mumbai and asked them to watch India Today Television daily for 2 Hrs.
- Vinay once met him at the Malad Railway station and gave him Rs. 1000 for distribution amongst the Panel homes (200 each per panel home for 5 Panel homes) and gave Rs. 5000 as a commission for doing this malpractice.
- Vishal did the said malpractice for Vinay between November 2019 to May 2020 (7 Months).
- Vishal told that every month, he used to get the call from different numbers and used to meet different people in nearby area of Malad Railway station for receiving the cash.
- Vishal approached 5 (Five) panel homes and asked them to watch some channel daily for 2 Hrs.”
Deokar further mentioned, “Not only have the aforesaid employees and his accomplices have been distributing money to some of the panel homes in lieu of watching certain channels. They have been visiting also visiting the households and trying to influence them and create hinderance in the working of the company and have also shown the panel homes to a third party, which is a clear-cut breach of non-disclosure agreement that they have signed with the company.”
He further alleged, “The said Vishal Bhandari & Dinesh Vishwakarma have also clearly breached clause 5.3.7 of the Policy Guidelines issued by the MIB, which clearly stipulate that no employee should be in the audience measurement panel. However, the accused herein had installed Meter. The said act was done by the accused person with the intention of cheating the complainant company and damage the credibility of the data collected by the complainant company and thereby destroy the hard-earned reputation of the company.”
On how such TRP manipulation impacts all stakeholders, Deokar explained, “That the Media planning for apportioning advertisement budgets of advertisers is done purely on basis of the TRP ratings generated by BARC for each channel and program. A manipulated TRP rating results in several advertisers to part with huge sum of money to undeserving channels, thereby causing unlawful losses to all the concerned parties, that is:
- Loss caused to BARC - That the integrity of the data released by the complainant comes under serious cloud of doubt and thereby keeping Broadcasters and Advertisers away from us and causing a loss of revenue to us.
- Loss caused to Advertisers - Undeserving TV channels get a windfall of unlawful gains and unjust enrichment by interference in the panel house and thereby causing loss to deserving channels and to advertisers.
- As far as the general public in the State is concerned, it is nothing but a clear case of attempt to interfere with the personal viewing habits and also a violation of information based on them. The general public is also defrauded as they are fraudulently induced to frequently view the channels believing the TRP ratings to be true.”