Mumbai: Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd. (BCCL), the owners of Times Network had sent a legal notice to the Television Audience Measurement Agency, BARC India demanding a cumulative damages of Rs 431 crore against loss of revenue. The notice from Broadcaster has accused that they have suffered huge revenue losses due to fraudulent and manipulated data released by BARC India.
Cognizable Criminal offences committed by BARC:
Notice issued by MZM Legal LLP dated 11th February 2021 accused that Times Now’s viewership numbers/TRP were clearly fudged and manipulated by BARC from 2017 onwards by providing wrong data for years together even after receiving a huge License Fee. The notice also stated that BARC is not only liable for civil action to be initiated against it but is also squarely liable to be prosecuted for serious cognizable criminal offences for the following reasons:
- “BARC is in complete breach of all obligations under the EULAs, MIB Guidelines and the internal policies/rules/regulations of BARC. Times Now’s viewership numbers were deliberately and in a concerted manner, reduced for giving benefit to the newly launched Channel, which has considerably and adversely impacted the revenue, growth, reputation, goodwill and image of Times Now channel and the Times Group at the national and international level” the Notice added.
- Times Now also accused that BARC wilfully and deliberately did not take any Disciplinary Action against the errant parties e.g., benefiting subscribers and errant officials, even after having the knowledge of TRP Manipulation through internal whistle blower complaints and external Forensic Audit Report dated 24.07.2020 and instead, discreetly allowed some of the employees to resign and move out of BARC and BARC intentionally remained silent and inactive with respect to said Report of 24.7.2020.
- “Even when the entire scam was unearthed with clear proof, in as early as July 2020, BARC suppressed the Forensic Audit Report from all stakeholders who were referring and relying on TRP numbers circulated by BARC, for claiming leadership, for earning revenue, for finalising marketing plans and other business activities. Therefore, BARC has not
- only cheated Times Now but also all other stakeholders like Advertisers, Viewers, other member Broadcasters and finally, the Regulators.”
- “From July, 2020 till December, 2020, for shielding culprits involved in this TRP Manipulation, BARC did not voluntarily share and disclose Acquisory Consulting’s Audit Report dated 24.07.2020, even though Mumbai Police unearthed TRP Scam matter and started investigating the same in October, 2020 and the said Audit Report was only shared by BARC with Mumbai Police on 24.12.2020, when Mumbai Police came across the same during its investigation.”
- “BARC was actively involved participant of the TRP Scam and chose to follow, adopt and continuously support all unethical, illegal practices from years together including Viewership Manipulation and Fudging of data and hence, it is clear that the corruption has gone to the root of BARC. Even the present Management and Board of BARC are nurturing the same by hiding, suppressing all these facts/incidents very conveniently by avoiding any legal actions against the wrongdoers, for enjoying its undue selfish benefits, at the cost of genuine and innocent stakeholders/ members/ subscribers.”
Damages and Compensative measures demanded by Times Now:
The notice issued by the broadcaster had demanded the following damages and other compensative measures to avoid legal action:
- Compensate to our Clients, a cumulative sum of damages of Rs. 431 Crores (Rupees Four Hundred and Thirty-One Crores) plus license fees of Rs. 21.83 crores with interest @ 18% p.a.
- Release a Press Statement on BARC’s website to immediately clarify that as per your own viewership data and records, “Times Now” was the number one channel and undisputed leader in English News Genre from 2017-2019.
- Publish the above press statement in the top five English and Hindi News Channels of the country, the widest circulating national English news daily newspaper of the country and the widest circulating regional newspaper of each state.
- Publish the Acquisory Risk Consulting’s forensic audit report dated 24.07.2020, on BARC’s website in compliance of applicable Codes and Guidelines.
- Basis the forensic audit report dated 24.07.2020 and the charge-sheet, initiate Disciplinary Action against the errant broadcasters/channels and BARC officials who are/were involved in the above said fraudulent activities and impose appropriate penalties including cancellation of the EULA of the errant subscribers.