Mumbai: Mumbai Police on Thursday arrested Partho Dasgupta, the former CEO of TV ratings agency BARC, in connection with the TRP scam case. He was arrested by Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) from the jurisdiction of Rajgad Police Station in Pune district and will be produced before a court on Friday.
Mr Dasgupta is the fifteenth person to be arrested in the case so far, while he happens to be the most high profile person to be arrested in TRP Scam Case so far, as he was at the helm of affairs of the TV audience Measurement Agency, BARC India, ever since the inception of the agency and until his resignation in October 2019.
Earlier, the CIU had arrested former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of BARC Ramil Ramgarhia in the case, among others. According to police sources, Ramgarhia allegedly “provided secret and confidential information to certain TV channels to help increase TRP (television rating points).”. His remand was extended till Tuesday.
The arrest of top most people, who were formerly associated with BARC India, has raised serious concern among the stakeholders like Advertisers, Advertising Agencies and Broadcasters.
Earlier, In its complaint filed through Hansa Research Agency, BARC had alleged that the accused bribed household members to tune into their channels in an effort to drive up their TRP. However, the arrest of top leaders who were calling shots in the rating agency itself has casted a shadow on fidelity of the viewership data that was released during their period when these two top leaders were running the show in the measurement agency.
TRP, measured by recording viewership data at sample households, is crucial as it helps TV channels attract advertisers. With this arrests, the validity of the currency that determined the spending practices of advertisers in TV Media that involves thousands of crores of budget annually has come under scrutiny.
Will the TRP Scam bring out more skeletons tumbling out of the TV box, or it will rest with the handful of channels at are already facing the investigation is a serious question the industry is staring at sadly.
BARC India is tight-lipped despite so much of dirt accumulating in its door steps, casting grave concern on the functioning of the rating agency during the past. It is high time that they should come out and assure the industry of its future during this testing times.
Industry observers feel that there could be possibility of malpractices involving low level people in the channels and TV Producers while ruling out the involvement of top bosses of the broadcast networks that actually amounts to a larger scam.
The incidents happened during the past and present has also raised question on the functioning of BARC India as a joint industry body with its own set of rules without involving any statutory aspect, but for the formal approval from the information broadcasting ministry to carry out the TV audience measurement activity. Considering the volume of advertising budgets, its future growth and other associated factors, the need for converting BARC India into a quasi-statutory body like TRAI or making it part of TRAI was an option suggested by sources in the power corridors.
On the other hand few are even against monopoly in TV rating measurement, they istead bat for opening the market to many players which can bring in DTH operators and MSO who are already having facility to harvest Return Path Data (RPD) by virtue of proliferation of hybrid boxes, and make the market more competitive with robust sampling options that suits the actual size of the TV households in India.
Finally, the TRP case has grabbed the attention of the industry and the government to give a serious thinking on the future of the functioning of TV audience measurement while BARC India continues to get belittled with its silence.