Republic TV revealed on Sunday that they were told by TV viewership rating agency BARC in an email that there has been no case, complaint or proof against Republic TV in the ongoing ‘Fake TRP’ scam as alleged by Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh. As expected, the report created a storm as it completely debunks any defence the Mumbai Police might have for the targeted harassment of Republic TV and Arnab Goswami. It may be noted that while the BARC’s associate Hansa Reseach had filed a case against its one ex-employee for manipulating TRP of India Today, Mumbai Police has been trying to implicate Republic TV in the case, shielding India Today.
BARC, however, has now come forward and issued a strong statement against Republic TV and condemned it for revealing what it calls confidential communication. It said, “BARC India is highly disappointed with the actions of the Republic Network by disclosing private and confidential communications and misrepresenting the same.”
“BARC India reiterates that it has not commented on the ongoing investigation and without prejudice to BARC India’s rights, it expresses its dismay at the actions of the Republic Network,” it added. The harsh tone adopted by the rating agency appears rather inconsistent with Republic TV’s supposed transgressions.
While BARC didn’t deny the content of the email they had sent to Republic which was aired by the channel, they objected to broadcast of the contents of the mail saying it was ‘private and confidential’. They also accused Republic of misrepresentation of facts, although they did not elaborate on that accusatoin.
Even if we assume for a moment that communication is indeed confidential, under such circumstances, the most obvious question that comes to mind is why should the information contained within the communication be confidential? With media trial underway across all channels and the reputation of Republic TV being dragged through the mud, it is imperative that authorities with the wherewithal to clear the air do come forward and do their job.
However, it appears that thus far BARC had been in possession of crucial evidence all this while that absolved Republic TV of all allegations and yet, it chose not do so and sat on it for reasons best known to itself. Instead of demonstrating moral fortitude, BARC decided to tolerate gross injustice and now it screams haughtily that Republic TV behaved indecently. The audacity of it is amusing indeed.
Let us consider the other situation from the other end now. Arnab Goswami was being harassed by the Mumbai Police for weeks now. If that weren’t enough, the Mumbai Police began targeting employees of the news network. Two of them even spent a couple of days in jail. Consulting editor Pradeep Bhandari was harangued as well even yesterday at a time when he was granted anticipatory bail.
Imagine yourself in his shoes for a moment. You have evidence at hand that proves that you and your employees, whose safety and well-being and health you are responsible for at the workplace, are being targeted maliciously. You are up against a government that has chosen to disregard every institutional norm and you have your back against the wall. What do you do at that point?
Do you sit on information that proves your innocence and sit by and watch as your employees are targeted? No decent man would opt for that choice. Amusingly enough, the ‘confidentiality’ argument used by BARC here was first used by India Today a few days ago. When OpIndia had revealed that India Today was imposed a fine of Rs. 5 lakh by BARC for TRP manipulation, the network had accused BARC of leaking confidential information, while not denying that they were found guilty and were punished. BARC appears to be learning a few tricks from people it would do well to stay away from.
Let us now come to the crux of the BARC argument on ‘confidentiality’. The fact of the matter is, journalism has always had a rather toxic relationship with confidentiality. One keeps betraying the trust of the other and is unfaithful by default but the other keeps returning to it over and over and over again.
Indeed, true journalism will not be possible if journalists respected confidentiality all the time. Some of the greatest stories in journalism and greatest accomplishments were achieved by betraying confidentiality. Julian Assange is arguably the most important journalist alive and Wikileaks is what it is precisely because it leaks classified documents obtained from anonymous sources.
Breaking confidentiality and publishing classified documents that expose government corruption is one of the core functions of journalism. It is precisely how journalists serve the greater public good. And this is recognised by every journalist worth their salt. But we are suddenly going to develop other standards merely because Republic TV is involved?
It is hugely hypocritical to make such an assertion. The status of the BARC communication ought to be of no concern to anybody and it is only its contents that we should concern ourselves with. And the contents of it themselves could not be clearer given that BARC has not contested its legitimacy. It is a witch-hunt that the Mumbai Police is carrying out against Republic and one day that is reminiscent of the dark days of the Emergency.