A supplementary chargesheet filed by the Mumbai Police on January 11 in the TRP scam case contains over 200 pages of purported WhatsApp conversations between Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami and then CEO of BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) Partho Dasgupta, who is now in custody, showing their alleged proximity, with Goswami more than once offering to mediate on Dasgupta’s behalf with the political leadership, including the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and claiming at one point, “All ministers are with us”.
In one of the chats, which go back to July 2017, ‘Dasgupta’ sends ‘Goswami’ exclusive TRP (Television Ratings Point) data. The police have alleged that Goswami paid Dasgupta money so as to show the highest TRPs in the news segment for the two Republic channels. While they claim evidence to prove this, it is not part of the chats attached to the supplementary chargesheet. The BARC calculates TRPs, on the basis of which advertisement rates for TV channels are decided.
In the chats, the former BARC CEO appears to be trying to fend off complaints against the organisation by talking of favours done to the BJP, and Goswami apparently offers to help by mediating with the PMO, ministers and other personalities, including one ‘AS’. Among those named in the chats are former Minister of State Rajyavardhan Rathore.
Despite repeated attempts, Rathore was not available for comment. There was no response from PMO’s Information Officer Dheeraj Singh till the time of going to press.
The supplementary chargesheet was filed against three persons, including Dasgupta. An earlier chargesheet on November 25 had named 12 persons and six channels for alleged rigging of TRPs. Dasgupta and two others, Republic Media Network CEO Vikas Khanchandani and former BARC Chief Operating Officer Romil Ramgarhia, are under arrest. After a Magistrate Court rejected his bail application, Dasgupta has approached the Bombay High Court, that will hear the matter Tuesday.
Dasgupta’s association with Goswami goes back to the time when both worked at Times Now.
Dasgupta’s advocate Arjun Singh Thakur said, “There are motivated interests in leaking the chats between two private persons who are known to each other. There is nothing incriminating in the chats, that are of a professional nature.” A member from the legal team representing Arnab Goswami refused to comment on the issue. The police have said that investigation is going on and a second supplementary chargesheet will soon be filed.
* April 17, 2017
‘Dasgupta’ tells ‘Goswami’ that other channels, envious of “the success of his channel”, were quoting ministers. ‘Goswami’ replies: “All ministers with us.” He goes on to add, “… not even a secretary meets India Today, NDTV and Times is boycotted by govt.”
* July 7, 2017
When ‘Dasgupta’ talks about the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting getting a complaint against Republic, ‘Goswami’ writes, “about the dish FTA (free-to-air) thing. rathore told me and said he is keeping it aside.” Rathore, apparently, is a reference to then I&B Minister of State Rajyavardhan Rathore.
* April 4, 2019
‘Dasgupta’ speaks about complaints by some news channels to the Telecom Regularity Authority of India (TRAI) against BARC, telling ‘Goswami’: “Can you help by telling AS to tell TRAI to pipe down on barc?”
‘Goswami’ says he can send a message, adding whether ‘Dasgupta’ could point out three aspects where TRAI action would “hurt AS… politically”.
On April 6, ‘Goswami’ tells ‘Dasgupta’: “PMO has been told by me personally about BARC.”
* April 21, 2019
‘Dasgupta’ tells ‘Goswami’: “Best is if AS asks him to stay off BARC”, in a reference to ‘Rajat’ (Rajat Sharma of India TV, who was heading the National Broadcasters’ Assocation then).
‘Goswami’ replies: ‘Don’t get BARC directly in AS gaze. Politicians have a way of seeking entry.’
In a press conference on December 26, the Mumbai Police also claimed to have retrieved emails between then BARC employees that indicated numbers were being fudged to help Republic. The contents stated, “Please find below numbers on English news. As required Times Now numbers were changed while Republic is kept the same.”Another excerpt read, “…Times Now, CNN News 18 will be changed … impressions of Times Now have been decreased drastically across the universe… the impressions of Republic TV remained unchanged..”