NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday attached assets worth about Rs 32 crore of some Maharashtra-based television channels in connection with its money laundering probe into the alleged TRP scam.
The properties, attached under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) belong to channels like Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie and are in the form of land and commercial and residential units in Mumbai, Indore, Delhi and Gurgaon apart from some bank deposits, the central agency said in a statement.
The agency claimed that "in two of these channels just 5 compromised households were contributing to approximately 25 per cent of the viewership of Mumbai for the relevant period and for the third channel, 5 compromised households were contributing to about 12 per cent of viewership of Mumbai."
The agency had filed a money laundering case against the channels after studying a Mumbai Police FIR for alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRPs).
"Television channels namely Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie had entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat and commit the offence of criminal breach of trust, forgery in order to gain wrongfully by manipulating TRPs of these television channels."
"Thus, by fraudulently enhancing the TRP ratings, these channels have garnered enhanced advertisement revenue," the ED claimed.
TRP indicates popularity of a TV channel or a programme and also enables advertisers to understand viewership pattern.
The agency claimed its investigation found that "people meters or devices also called Bar-O-Meters are installed at certain places/households (about 1,800 in Mumbai and 44,000 in India) on a proportionate basis to mimic the viewership pattern of 197 million households in India for capturing viewership of various channels of different genres and languages in selected homes to calculate the TRP."
These barometers are installed for Broadcast Audience Research Council by Hansa (BARC decides the household where the Bar-o-meter is to be installed and the installation is handled by third party agency known as Hansa Research Group Limited) and employees (relationship managers) of Hansa install and service the device, it said.
"TRP becomes an important basis on which advertisement is allocated to any channel and determines the revenue generation of television channel.
Thus, manipulation of TRP becomes a tool for generating greater advertisement revenue It was found that the "confidential information of the households where Bar-o-meter are installed was revealed by the relationship managers to various unscrupulous elements for pecuniary gains and thereafter the households were bribed and induced to watch specific channels, which fraudulently enhanced the television rating points (TRP) for the television channel and on the basis of rigged TRP, advertisers were deceived and advertised on the channel which would not have been otherwise done."
The ED claimed that the accused channels generated a total "proceeds of crime" to the tune of Rs 46.77 crore.