Mumbai: Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd. (BCCL) contemplates legal action against the TV Viewership Measurement Agency, BARC India for causing wrongful loss and its failure to address its grievances. The Broadcaster is a subscriber of viewership data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), for its Channels including “Times Now” operating under Times Network.
According to the statement issued by BCCL/Times Network, they have suspected large scale manipulation of ratings pertaining to illegal usage of multiple LCNs and out of EPG placement since 2017 and especially after the launch of Republic TV in May 2017.
“We also found significant abnormalities in Market wise ratings of that channel clearly indicating ground level tampering and/ or deliberate intervention at the raw data level to favor them. Times Network repeatedly complained about these irregularities to BARC for almost 2 years but got no resolution as the complaints routinely resulted in stock replies” the statement added.
The Broadcaster substantiated its claim stating that the press statement of Joint Commissioner (Crimes) of Mumbai Police on 25.12.2020, as part of the ongoing investigation into the BARC TRP Scam, made it clear that proof had been unearthed exposing manipulation by BARC officials in 2017/18. As per BARC’s Forensic Audit of July 2020, as well as the multiple emails and WhatsApp chats of that period, which has been accessed by Mumbai Police.
“It is now clear that Times Now’s TRPs were indeed manually reduced by BARC officials headed by Partho Dasgupta and Romil Ramgarhia before publishing, with the intention to give undue advantage to other Channels in English News Genre and thereby fraudulently declare Republic TV as No.1, even when Times Now was consistently higher by a large margin and was the undisputed leader of the Genre” said the statement.
Times Network also took a potshot at the current management team of BARC stating that BARC’s culpability is compounded in that even after unearthing this gross misreporting of an entire Genre for a protracted period vide the Forensic Audit Report of July 2020, leading to significant financial distress for Times Network, BARC’s present Management and Board kept this matter under wraps and took no action against any of the perpetrators other than asking some of the errant officials to silently resign. The inaction as far as we can see is systemic and deliberate, as had it not been for the Mumbai Police investigators who stumbled upon this report in December 2020, BARC had no intention in the first place to either inform us as affected party or penalize the fraudulent broadcaster. This constitutes moral turpitude, breach of trust, and puts a question on the Code of conduct and ethical standards of the present BARC Board and Management. It is worth pondering as to whether such a Board and Management can indeed preside over a system that puts out ratings that impact ad spends worth over ₹ 30000 Crores P.A. and impacts the livelihoods of thousands of employees engaged in the Broadcast sector.
Multiple attempts from Times Network to get an official statement of explanation from BARC in the last few weeks have been rebuffed.
Due to this unacceptable and unpardonable act of BARC, Times Network has suffered huge financial losses and irreparable damage to its reputation/ goodwill. Times Network/ BCCL is contemplating all possible legal actions against BARC for non-redressal of its grievances, as available in law for wrongful loss caused.
Times Network also intends to initiate appropriate proceedings against the individual perpetrators of the fraud as per provisions of Criminal and Civil laws.