Media giant Times Group on Sunday said it has sent a legal notice to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), alleging the TV rating agency “deliberately reduced” its English news channel’s viewership at the behest of a rival launched in 2017 and demanded compensation of Rs 450 crore.
The notice, which follows the probe by the city police into the fake TRP case, in which former officials from BARC and the Arnab Goswami-promoted Republic News have been arrested, was sent by MZM Legal LLP on behalf of Bennett, Coleman and Co (BCCL) on February 11.
“Times Now’s viewership numbers were deliberately and in a concerted manner, reduced for giving benefit to the newly launched Channel, which has considerably and adversely impacted the revenue, growth, reputation, goodwill and image of Times Now channel and the Times Group at the national and international level,” the notice, a copy of which was seen by PTI, said.
It also said that the BARC wilfully and deliberately did not take action on the findings of a July 2020 report commissioned following whistleblower allegations about TRP (television rating points) manipulation. When contacted, BARC declined to comment on the story.
The notice said BARC should compensate Times Group with Rs 431 crore in damages and also pay back license fees of Rs 21.83 crore which has been paid by the group till date. The notice, which follows alleged chats between the arrested former chief executive of BARC Parto Dasgupta and Republic’s promoter and editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, said BARC should also publish a statement stating that Times Now was the leader in the English news genre between 2017-2019.
Mentioning details from the chat between Goswami and Dasgupta where both speak about suppressing Times Now’s numbers, the notice also demanded the BARC to publish Acquisory Risk Consulting’s forensic audit report dated July 24, 2020, and also initiate disciplinary action against errant broadcasters/channels and BARC officials involved in the fraudulent activities.
Giving seven-days time to comply, the legal notice warned that the media group will be constrained to adopt criminal and also civil action against the BARC. It also quoted from a press conference by the joint commissioner of police (crime) in December 2020, which said that apart from English news genre TRP manipulation also happened in the Telugu news channels category.
“The press conference makes it evidently clear that activities resulting in viewership malpractices and TRP manipulation were undertaken by BARC with a malafide intention to biasedly cause wrongful losses to some of its subscribers whilst other co-conspiring subscribers benefitted of the malicious acts,” the legal notice said.
TheBengaluruLive sought a clarification with specific reference on ‘legal notice’ via a WhatsApp message to Sunil Lulla, CEO of BARC. In response, a BARC spokesperson said, “We wouldn’t be able to comment on this.” There was no response so far from Sunil Lulla.