New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a money laundering complaint in the alleged Television Rating Points (TRP) rigging scam that is being investigated by the Mumbai police.
Official sources said the central probe agency has filed an enforcement case information report (ECIR) that is equivalent to a police FIR under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The ED complaint was filed after studying a Mumbai police FIR that was registered in October and it had named the Republic TV channel, two Marathi channels and few other individuals.
Republic TV and other accused have denied wrongdoing and manipulation of the TRP (television rating points) system.
Officials of the news channels and others named in the police FIR, apart from two former employees of Hansa research agency arrested by the Mumbai police in this case, will soon be summoned by the ED for questioning and recording of their statements, they said.
The ED will probe if fake TRPs were generated and if the money earned through this was used to generate illegal funds and create illegitimate assets, they said.
TRP is a tool to judge which TV programmes are viewed the most and also indicates the viewers' choice and popularity of a particular channel.
It is calculated on the basis of TV channel viewership in a confidential set of households and measuring barometers are installed at such locations.
The alleged scam came to light when ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers.
Mumbai police had alleged that some channels were paying bribes to boost TRP fraudulently so as to increase advertising revenue.
It was alleged that some families at whose houses metres were installed for collecting data of viewership were being bribed to tune into a particular channel.
On October 8, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh had said that many people in whose homes these barometers were installed, accepted that they were getting monetary benefit for keeping their TV sets on even when they did not watch it.
"We suspect that if this was happening in Mumbai then it could be happening in other parts of the country as well," Singh had said.
The CBI, last month, also had registered an FIR into alleged manipulation of TRP on the basis of a reference from Uttar Pradesh Police.
Sources the ED may also look at this case by filing a fresh case or including it in the present ECIR filed under the PMLA.
Following the fake TRP scam, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) on October 15 announced a temporary suspension of weekly ratings of news channels across languages. The council intended to review and augment the current standards of measurement to improve on “statistical robustness”, and the exercise will result in a “pause” in the weekly ratings for up to 12 weeks. The exercise covered all Hindi, Regional, English News and Business News channels with immediate effect.
On November 10, Republic TV’s distribution head Ghanshyam Singh was arrested in connection with the alleged TRP rigging scam. Earlier, at least five people were arrested by the city police.
(With Agency Inputs)