After the Mumbai Police announced an investigation against Republic TV and two more channels for manipulation of ratings, a man whose home had a "people meter" to check viewership has revealed that he had received monthly payments to watch certain channels.
The man, one of the three witnesses that the police say were bribed by the channels, also said he was told that the meter installed at his home would take care of his bills and automatically recharge his DTH platform.
"The executive from Bar-o-meter told me to watch Box Cinema (one of the three channels under investigation). He said I should watch the channel from 2 pm to 4 pm and I would be paid Rs 500," the viewer told NDTV.
He said he did it for two to three years and never realized that it could be linked to fudging TRPs or Television Rating Points.
He stopped when he had to go to his village. "I was away and my TV was shut. I told them I am not watching TV anymore," he said.
Four persons have been arrested, including the owners of Box Channel and Fakt Marathi. They were sent to judicial custody today.
The directors and promoters of Republic TV are being investigated, according to Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh.
The "people meters" attached to TV sets measure the ratings. In Mumbai, there are 2,000 households that have these meters installed for the purpose of assessing the viewership of various channels.
The information drawn from these meters is meant to be secret.
Ratings agency BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) employed the private agency Hansa to install the meters.
The Mumbai Police chief said Hansa had complained about the rigging of TV ratings. It was found that data was shared with the media companies, who allegedly bribed households to keep their channels on even when they were not watching them.
Mr Singh said BARC as well as Hansa had shared evidence that the channels had bribed some households in order to boost ratings.
Republic TV has strongly refuted the allegations and accused the Mumbai Police of vendetta because it had raised questions on the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation.
"The complaint was lodged by independent agency Hansa, not us. Suspicious trends were noticed by them, not us. They noticed suspicious trends of ratings or certain channels. They shared details of discrepancies," the police chief told NDTV.
"We have called three witnesses who were paid money to watch a particular channel," he said.
The Mumbai Police First Information Report also names India Today, but Mr Singh told NDTV, "In the FIR, India Today was named by one of the witnesses. But as the probe progressed neither BARC, nor witnesses, nor accused named India Today. All named Republic TV, Marathi channels. As of now no evidence against India Today. We are proceeding against Republic TV, Marathi channels."
Republic TV's Arnab Goswami said there is "not a single BARC report that mentioned Republic TV". "The people of India know the truth. BARC has not mentioned republic in any complaint," he added.