INDIA.Mumbai: Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan shared screenshots of alleged WhatsApp conversations today, between Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Partho Dasgupta related to TRP scam.
Over 500 pages of chats purported to be between Goswami and Dasgupta, an accused in the TRP scam case, have gone viral on social media. “These are a few snapshots of the damning leaked WhatsApp chats between BARC CEO & #ArnabGoswami. They show many conspiracies & unprecedented access to power in this government; gross abuse of his media & his position as a power broker. In any Rule of law country, he would be in jail for long,” said Bhushan in his tweet.
Goswami’s proximity with the PMO
The detailed chats reveal damning information related to Goswami’s proximity with the Prime Minister’s office and members of the ruling government, his efforts to manipulate TRPs in his favour and seek help from the BJP government, and much more. Some chats allegedly show Goswami assuring help from PMO with relations to the TRPs.
Read also: Ex-CEO Of BARC Arrested In TRP Scam
In one of the chat messages circulating online, former BARC CEO allegedly sent a confidential BARC letter to Goswami saying that he had jammed the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) while Goswami allegedly replied that he might meet the Prime Minister regarding the matter. Some messages also suggest that Dasgupta told Goswami that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reform proposal to measure TV viewership digitally using special software installed in the set-top box would politically hurt both the Republic channel and the BJP.
In the alleged chats, the Former BARC CEO asks Goswami to use his influence with the ruling party leaders to sabotage TRAI reform to install automatic digital measurement software and replace the manual system of meter installation in households.
Goswami’s alleged WhatsApp chat with Das Gupta was leaked on social media on the same day when the Bombay High Court adjourned the hearing in the TRP Scam case till January 29, 2021. The Mumbai Police also said that they will not arrest Goswami until the next hearing.
The Mumbai Police has alleged that Dasgupta misused his official position and joined hands with Goswami and other accused to manipulate TRP ratings and bring Republic TV to the top position among English news channels. In December last, the crime branch of Mumbai Police had told the court that Goswami had bribed Dasgupta to manipulate the Republic’s TRPs and bring Republic TV to number one position.
Mumbai Police has named Dasgupta in its supplementary charge sheet in the case. The police have also alleged that Goswami had paid huge sums to Dasgupta to rig the Republic TV TRP since its launch in 2017. Dasgupta, who was arrested on December 24, 2020, has been remanded to judicial custody till January 13, 2021. Goswami is also among senior figures from the network named in a charge sheet filed by Mumbai Police.
Besides Republic TV, Box Cinema, Fakt Marathi, News Nation, Mahamovies, and Wow music channel are also under the police’s radar for alleged manipulation of their TRPs. They did this by paying money to households with installed barometers to keep the channels on, according to the allegations.
The scam surfaced in October
The scam came to the fore in October 2020 when Nitin Deokar, deputy general manager of Hansa Research Private Limited filed the complaint at Kandivli police station in North Mumbai, alleging that Vishal Bhandari, who was working as a relationship manager in his organization from November 2019 to May 2020, was taking money from Vinay Tripathi and used to pay households where barometers were installed and asked them to watch “India Today”. (However Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh clarified that there was no evidence against ‘India Today TV’).
“During the inquiry, Bhandari named others in the scam. When Mumbai Police visited the residence of one of the viewers, a Kandivli resident Tejal Solanki, in whose house a the barometer was installed, told police that he was paid money, and was asked to watch ‘Republic TV”.
So far the Mumbai police have arrested 15 people, including Dasgupta in the TRP scam. Most of those named in the scam are former employees of the Mumbai based Hansa Research Private Limited, appointed by BARC to monitor different channels and programs through 30,000 barometers installed across India, based on which the council awards ratings to channels. Of the 30,000, 2,000 barometers are installed in Mumbai, which is handled by 20 relationship managers.