Romil Ramgarhia, former chief operating officer of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), was arrested by the Mumbai Police on Thursday in connection with the alleged Television Rating Point (TRP) rigging scam.
According to a Mumbai Mirror report, the police claimed that Ramgarhia had assisted media houses in manipulating the barometer panels installed at select houses to increase the TRPs of news channels Republic TV, Box Cinema, and Fakt Marathi.
The police sought his custody on the grounds that they had collected evidence that indicated Ramgarhia’s role in the alleged TRP scam, and to further probe the reasons why he quit BARC earlier this year.
Ramgarhia, who quit BARC India in July, is the 14th accused in the alleged TRP rigging case and the first person associated with the BARC to be arrested in the case.
Mumbai Police arrests Romil Ramgarhia, the former chief operating officer of Broadcast Audience Research Council, in connection with alleged #TRP rigging scam: official
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) December 17, 2020
Based on a complaint from BARC, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh had uncovered the alleged fake TRP racket during an investigation in October. Several news channels have been accused of tampering with the barometer, also known as the people’s meter, that is used to check and evaluate the viewership of news channels. This rigging of viewership was carried out allegedly to bring in more investments, in the form of advertisements, for these news channels.
Ramgarhia’s arrest came a day after Mumbai court on Wednesday granted bail to Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani on a bail bond of Rs 50,000. He was arrested by the Mumbai Police on Sunday and was in police custody till Tuesday, reported ANI.
The Mumbai Police said that Republic TV had allegedly spent Rs 15 lakh per month to increase their TRP by ensuring that they get maximum viewership, reported Bar and Bench. It further stated that the police found the alleged amount in possession of Abhishek Kolawade, the tenth accused in the TRP scam, who the police claimed had taken money from the channel to increase TRPs of the channel.
Earlier, the channel’s distribution head Ghanshyam Singh was arrested for his connection in rigging the TRP. After interrogating Singh, the police concluded that he was working under the directions of Khanchandani and the channel’s chief operating officer Priya Mukherjee.
Republic TV called the arrest “illegal”, and senior advocate Aabad Ponda stated that Khanchandani was being targeted for his association with Republic TV. The channel and its editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami said that the Mumbai Police was carrying out a “witch-hunt” against media house over conflicts over the Palghar mob-lynching case and the coverage of late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide.
In October, Mumbai Police had arrested Shirish Pattanshetty, the co-promoter of Fakt Marathi, and Narayan Sharma, the founder of Box Cinema. The two were granted bail later that month.
The weekly ratings for news channels currently remains suspended, as per BARC’s decision in October, after the alleged TRP scam came to light.