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Former CEO Partho Dasgupta BARC
Former CEO Partho Dasgupta BARC

BARC’s ex-CEO held in TRP ratings case

  • This is the 15th arrest made by the special investigation team (SIT) related to the fraud
  • The scam, related to manipulation of television ratings, started unfolding this October when Mumbai police said they had busted a TRP racket

The Mumbai crime branch has arrested Partho Dasgupta, the former chief executive officer of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, for his alleged involvement in the television rating points (TRP) fraud.

Assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze who heads the Criminal Intelligence Unit said, “Dasgupta was arrested from Pune rural and he is being brought to Mumbai and will be produced before a magistrate on December 25."

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This is the 15th arrest made by the special investigation team (SIT) which is probing the TRP fraud.

The scam, related to manipulation of television ratings, started unfolding this October when Mumbai police said they had busted a TRP racket based on complaints received from BARC India and Hansa - a consumer insights company and one of the vendors of BARC - about "suspicious trends" and activities.

Certain households were paid to keep their television sets turned on, irrespective of whether they were watching it or not, to increase the viewership of certain channels. Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV was one of the channels named in the complaint, the complaint said.

BARC India measures viewership of TV channels, which is critical for broadcasters as the ratings have a direct bearing on the business they get from advertisers. Currently, an estimated 30,000- 35,000 crore of advertising money rides on ratings. The ratings are assigned on the basis of a panel of homes where measurement meters are placed. Currently, BARC has a sample size of 44,000 homes.

However, to push up viewership, some of these households were bribed to keep their TVs on. As the TRP scam surfaced, BARC decided to suspend the weekly viewership data for news channels.

On December 17, CIU arrested Romil Ramgarhia, the former chief operating officer (COO) of BARC after it came to light that he was allegedly in contact with a director of ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, and chief executive of Republic TV channels Vikas Khanchandani through WhatsApp and emails.

SIT said that Ramgarhia, who was COO in BARC from July 2014 to July 2020, used to have all the secret information about the viewership of the channels and he allegedly misused the same to illegally boost TRPs.

Ramgarhia was in police custody till December 22 and thereafter he was sent to judicial custody and is currently out on bail, said Vaze.

The SIT recently also arrested Republic TV chief executive officer (CEO) Vikas Khanchandani. He later secured bail in the matter.

The former BARC CEO, Dasgupta, is currently a freelance management and strategy consultant for broadcasting and new media companies. He served as BARC CEO between 2013 and 2019. Prior to that, he worked with the Times Group as head of business development, general manager for brand operations at The Economic Times, and business head for the company’s TV channel Times Now. He was also managing director and CEO at Future Media India Ltd, a subsidiary of the Future Group helping brands connect with consumers.

BARC India launched its TV measurement agency in April 2015 as an alternative to TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd, the audience measurement system put in place by information and insights firm Nielsen and Kantar Media. TAM was replaced as broadcasters complained against the robustness of its data and alleged manipulation.

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