India's Central Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday stepped in to probe the television rating points or TRP scam, a case that has reignited the debate on unfair means being adopted by a few media houses in this country for gaining advertisement revenues.
"The federal agency has registered a first information report in the case, which is currently being investigated by police in the Indian city of Mumbai," a senior official told UNB. It was the Mumbai Police that had first accused one of the country's leading 24-hour English news channels, Republic TV, and two other local electronic media houses of rigging ratings.
In fact, Republic TV had been demanding a federal probe in the case since Mumbai Police announced the "major probe" against the three news channels for their alleged involvement in the scandal.
At a media meet earlier this month, Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh had named Republic TV as the main perpetrator of the crime. "The biggest name to emerge in the alleged scam is Republic TV. Two other local channels whose owners have been arrested for their role in the ratings fraud are Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema," he had said.
According to the Mumbai Police, these three news channels, particularly Republic TV, bribed a number of families in the city and on the outskirts a monthly payment of 500 Indian rupees (7 USD) in lieu of keeping the channels switched on all the time at their homes for pushing up ratings.
"The manipulation was mainly for advertising revenues. Based on these ratings they received illegal advertising funds. This will be considered proceeds of cheating," Singh had said, adding that the central government was apprised of the fraud.
The ratings scam had surfaced during a police probe into how a "false narrative" was being spread by some news outlets, especially in connection with the probe into actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death. In Mumbai, 2,000 barometers are installed to monitor ratings.
In a statement, Republic TV's editor-in-chief and promoter Arnab Goswami had refuted the allegations and threatened to file a criminal defamation suit against the Mumbai Police commissioner.
For the past couple of months, Republic TV has been airing daily debates on the "mystery" surrounding the death of Sushant Singh, whose body was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his Mumbai flat on June 14.
The channel has been accused by many of launching a witch hunt against the actor's girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty by cooking up "conspiracy theories" surrounding the death, which is currently being probed by a central agency.