India arrests TV executive over alleged ratings fraud

SRINAGAR, INDIA (AP) — Indian police have arrested the chief executive officer of a media group that owns a polarising television news channel on charges of rigging the ratings system, a major component in determining what a channel can charge advertisers.

Police arrested ARG Outlier Media Chief Executive Vikas Khanchandani on Sunday at his home in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, Republic TV announced during a broadcast. Republic TV, which broadcasts in English and Hindi, aggressively supports Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his nationalist policies.

Republic TV denounced the arrest. “I know he will go in and come out with his head held high,” the news channel’s co-founder Arnab Goswami said of Khanchandani on his firebrand nightly show.

The arrest is part of a police investigation that began in October into some television channels in the western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, over accusations that they rig the ratings scores system. Experts said the arrests are part of a feud between Republic TV and the local administration in Maharashtra, where the coalition of ruling parties resisted efforts by Modi’s party to form a ruling alliance in the state.

India has one of the world’s most vibrant and competitive media environments, with more than 850 news channels broadcast in multiple languages. But over the years, the industry has faced a crisis of credibility.