The owners of English news channel Times Now, which was affected by the alleged manipulations of viewership numbers, said they are contemplating legal actions against the rating agency BARC India and accused the present Management and Board of inaction in the matter.
Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd. (BCCL) is a subscriber of viewership data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), for its Channels including "Times Now" operating under Times Network.
A press statement from Times Network said, “Since 2017 and specially after the launch of Republic TV in May 2017, BCCL/ Times Network suspected large scale manipulation of ratings pertaining to illegal usage of multiple LCNs and out of EPG placement by Republic TV. 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 favour 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 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 for the benefit of Republic TV in 2017/18. As per BARC’s Forensic Audit of July 2020, as well as the multiple email 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 Republic TV in the 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.
“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 penalise the fraudulent broadcaster. This constitutes moral turpitude, breach of trust and puts a question on 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 which 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 has 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.”