The Chief Financial Officer of Republic TV has been called in for questioning on Saturday by the Mumbai Police in the investigation into allegations that the television channel paid viewers to game its ratings and illegally earn more ad revenue, officials said.
Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram is the first senior management official of the TV network to be summoned in the scandal that erupted on Thursday with the Mumbai Police revealing that an agency which tracks viewership had alleged that the numbers were being fudged by certain channels.
Republic TV is the biggest name to have emerged in the early investigation with viewers testifying that they had been paid to keep the channel on even when they were not watching. The two others are local channels in Maharashtra called Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema.
The police said they intend to carry out a “forensic audit” of Republic TV’s accounts and the summons to Mr Sundaram contend that there are reasonable grounds to believe that he is “acquainted with certain facts and circumstances of the matter”.
The police have also summoned accountants of the two other channels and those from a couple of advertising agencies.
Four people, including owners of the two smaller channels have already been arrested in the case. The police have said the accounts of Republic TV and the others could be frozen if it was established that the channels made advertising money using rigged ratings.
Republic TV has strongly refuted the allegations and accused the Mumbai Police of vendetta because it had raised questions on its investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and other stories which have been critical of the state’s Shiv Sena-led coalition government.
Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami said he will sue Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh for the allegations and that there is “not a single BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) report that mentioned Republic TV”. “The people of India know the truth. BARC has not mentioned Republic in any complaint,” he added.
According to the police, the complaint in the case was filed earlier this month by Hansa Research, a company appointed by BARC, which installs “people metres” to track viewership. The company said some former employees had shared details of the households being tracked and helped rig ratings.