Swinging into action into the alleged TRP case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday said that it has attached properties to the tune of Rs 32 crore of television channels Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie in Delhi, Indore, Mumbai and Gurugram. An ED official in Delhi said that the financial probe agency attached the properties of three channels in the form of land, commercial and residential units and balances in bank accounts under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The official said that the ED probe revealed that the proceeds of crime for these channels are to the tune of Rs 46 crore. The ED registered a case on the basis of FIR registered by Mumbai Police into the alleged TRP case.
He said the money laundering probe has revealed that People-meters or devices also called Bar-O-Meters were installed at certain places or households -- approximately 1,800 in Mumbai and 44,000 in India in all -- on a proportionate basis to mimic the viewership pattern of 197 million households in India for capturing viewership of various channels of different genres and languages in selected homes to calculate the TRP.
He said that these barometers are installed for the Broadcast Audio Research Council (BARC) by Hansa. Employees (relationship managers) of Hansa install and service the device.
BARC decides the household, where the Bar-o-meter is to be installed.
The TRP indicates the popularity of a TV channel or a programme and also enables advertisers to understand viewership patterns. TRP becomes an important basis on which advertisement is allocated to any channel and determines the revenue generation of Television channel. Thus, manipulation of TRP becomes a tool for generating greater advertisement revenue.
The official said, "During the course of the investigation, it was found that the confidential information of the households where Bar-o-meter were installed was revealed by the Relationship Managers to various unscrupulous elements for pecuniary gains and thereafter the households were bribed and induced to watch specific channels, which fraudulently enhanced the television rating points (TRP) for the channel and on the basis of rigged TRP, advertisers were deceived and advertised on the channel which would not have been otherwise done."
He said, "Investigations revealed that Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat and committed the offence of criminal breach of trust, forgery in order to gain wrongfully by manipulating TRPs of these Television Channels. Thus, by fraudulently enhancing the TRP ratings, these channels have garnered enhanced advertisement revenue," he said.
The official said that in two of these channels, just five compromised households were contributing to approximately 25 per cent of the viewership of Mumbai for the relevant period and for the third channel, five compromised households were contributing to approximately 12 per cent of viewership of Mumbai.