Vikas Khanchandani, the CEO of news channel Republic TV, was arrested by the Mumbai Police on Sunday in connection with the alleged TRP manipulation case, reported NDTV.
The development comes after the Bombay High Court rejected Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami‘s plea seeking a stay on the investigation.
“This petition is ambitious in nature. You want Maharashtra Police not to arrest any employee and transfer the cases to CBI. You better withdraw this,” Justice DY Chandrachud had told ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, the owner of Republic Network, that accused the Mumbai Police of “hounding” media houses.
Khanchandani’s arrest took the number of Republic Network employees apprehended to 13.
Calling the arrest “illegal“, Republic TV said that it will move the Holiday Court against the arrest. Condemning the arrest, Goswami said, “If the matter comes under TRAI [Telecom Regulatory Authority of India], why is the Mumbai Police arresting our CEO Vikas Khanchandani?”
Earlier, the channel’s distribution head Ghanshyam Singh was arrested for his connection in rigging the TRP. The news channel had alleged that Singh was “tortured and assaulted” by the police during interrogation. Singh was granted bail on December 5.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh uncovered the fake TRP racket, that involved three media houses, in October. The 1,400-page chargesheet in the TRP scam was filed in November by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch.
The ratings scam emerged during a larger analysis of the manipulation of news trends and how a “false narrative” was being spread, especially in connection with the probe into late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, Singh said, as per an NDTV report.
“There was false TRP spreading. TRP ratings were being bought. The manipulation was mainly for advertising revenues,” he added.
The Broadcast Audience Research Council, which releases weekly rating points, filed a complaint in October through its rating management vendor Hansa Research Group, accusing Republic TV, Box Cinema, and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi, of manipulating the ratings. The TRP is usually collected from meters installed at select houses. These are referred to as ‘people’s meters’.
Mumbai has 2,000 such ‘people’s meters’ installed, which are monitored by Hansa Research.
Republic TV has been accused of rigging this meter by asking those families to tune in to their channel in lieu of money. Reportedly, each family was paid Rs 400 to Rs 500 per month to tune in to their channel. As per the police chief, the data gathered indicated “poor uneducated households that don’t speak English” watching only English news channels.
“Based on these ratings, they received illegal advertising funds. This will be considered proceeds of cheating,” said Singh.
As per NDTV, Republic TV said that the accusations were a matter of vendetta by the Mumbai Police following their clash over the case of Rajput’s suicide case.
Republic TV and Times Now were served with a lawsuit against four of their top employees by several big production houses on the grounds of maligning the Hindi film industry.
Goswami was recently granted bail, along with the co-accused Nitish Sarda and Parveen Rajesh Singh, in the 2018 abetment to suicide case of interior designer Anvay Naik.