Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd. (BCCL), the parent company of Times Now, has sent a legal notice to BARC India and its management asking for a compensation of a cumulative sum of damages of Rs 431 crore plus license fees of Rs 21.83 crore with interest @ 18% p.a.
The company has also demanded that BARC must announce that Times Now was the number one channel during the period under investigation from 2017-2019.
BCCL asked the measurement body to publish the Acquisory Risk Consulting’s forensic audit report dated 24.07.2020, on BARC’s website in compliance of applicable Codes and Guidelines, and 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.
Giving seven days time for compliance of the demands, the legal notice said, “You are hereby called upon to comply with the above-mentioned terms, within seven (7) days from the date of receipt of this notice, failing which our Clients shall be constrained to adopt appropriate criminal as well as civil action against you, which shall be at your entire risk as to all costs and consequences thereof, which fact you may kindly note. This notice is without prejudice to the rights and remedies available to our Clients, whether under law, contract, tort or equity, all of which are reserved. Our Clients reserve their rights to initiate and adopt appropriate legal action against the Board, Management Committee, KMP and all concerned officials, service providers of BARC whether past or presently affiliated to BARC without any further notice.”
The notice alleged that BARC willfully 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 Page 12 of 14 whistleblower 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.
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, the notice said.
The notice alleged that 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,” it said.
The notice called out the current BARC management’s emails to Republic which were used by the network as a clean chit and said, “To safeguard the erring news channel/broadcaster which wrongfully benefitted out of these illegal acts, BARC strategically issued letters in October 2020 and November 2020, to give them a self-serving clean chit to enable them to defend the matter under investigation by Mumbai Police. These acts clearly show the complete involvement of BARC in these illegal and unethical acts of Viewership Manipulation and Malpractices continuing from 2016 till date.”