The Mumbai Police on Monday claimed in a local court that Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami ‘connived’ with the former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Partho Dasgupta and a former senior BARC official to manipulate and increase the television rating points (TRPs) of the Republic TV and Republic Bharat channels. This is the first time that the Mumbai Police have directly named Arnab Goswami in the TRP case.
The police further claimed that Arnab Goswami paid Dasgupta lakhs of rupees on several occasions, of which the latter bought expensive jewellery and other items which were kept at his home. “We have recovered a wristwatch and three kilograms of white silver jewellery from his house,” the police told the court.
According to Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze, Dasgupta had reportedly said that Goswami had met him at least three times, in separate hotels in Mumbai, and “made payments worth lakhs in cash, including once in US dollars.” He said Goswami and Dasgupta had worked together at Times Now. He also added that in addition to Dasgupta and Romil Ramgarhia, the police is probing the involvement of other employees of the BARC too.
The police also stated that they needed to interrogate the accused about the “rigged” rankings of the news channels. The police claimed that they found that the rankings released by the BARC were decided beforehand. The Crime Branch has stated that Dasgupta was the “mastermind” of the TRP scam, and have further sought his custody.
Assistant police inspector Sachin Waze, who is heading the probe into the TRP scam, claimed that the police have obtained evidence of a number of payments. “In 2017, Goswami paid him 6,000 US dollars at a star hotel in Lower Parel and sponsored a trip for Dasgupta and his family to Switzerland and Denmark; in 2018, he paid Rs 20 lakh in cash; and in 2019 he paid Rs 10 lakh at a hotel near the airport,” Waze alleged according to a Times of India report.
However, Indian Express reports that Dasgupta used the money to purchase jewellery and other valuables that were seized from his residence. “The purchases include one Tag Heuer watch worth approximately Rs 1 lakh and imitation jewellery and stones worth Rs 2.22 lakh,” police said.
It is unclear why the Mumbai Police thinks that the money was exchanged, what proof they have and if the money was indeed exchanged, whether they have proof to show it was exchanged to manipulate TRP and no other reason. It is also interesting that the police would allege that a man at the position of being the BARC CEO owning a Tag Heuer watch and some imitation jewellery could be suspicious.
This is the first time that Arnab Goswami has been directly accused in the TRP manipulation case. Though the remand report filed by the Mumbai Police mentions “Republic owners” in the list of the accused, it does not name Goswami specifically.
TRP manipulation case: How it all started
Ever since Arnab Goswami questioned the Maha Vikas Aghadi government on the brutal lynching of the Hindu Sadhus in Palghar, a relentless witchhunt has been unleashed against the journalist and his channel Republic TV.
On the 8th of October, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh held a press conference where he categorically stated that Mumbai police have been alerted about a new racket involving false television rating points (TRP). He said that three channels, including Republic TV and two other Marathi channels- Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema have been reportedly involved in distorting the apparatus used by BARC to rate television channels. The commissioner said that arrests have also been made in this regard. He further added that Republic TV’s bank accounts were under scanner and that their officials would be summoned soon.
Interestingly, in the press conference, the Commissioner mentioned Hansa Research and how, to measure TRPs, BARC has installed 2000 barometers in Mumbai to monitor TRPs which is strictly confidential. Parambir Singh further said that the confidential contract was given to a company called Hansa Research which has filed the complaint against some former employees who misused the data on households where the TRP monitoring systems are installed.
It is to be noted here that during the press conference, the police commissioner specifically mentioned that his assertions were based on the Hansa Research complaint that was filed with the police.
FIR by Hansa Research emerges – had named India Today and not Republic TV
As mentioned earlier, in his press conference, Parambir Singh had specifically mentioned that Hansa Research had filed a complaint with the police. Now, after he implicated Republic TV in his press conference, the complaint that was filed by Hansa Research on the 6th of October, just 2 days before the press conference by Parambir Sing, emerged.
Interestingly, in this FIR that was filed by Hansa Research, Republic TV was not mentioned even once. The channel that was mentioned several times was India Today.
The FIR filed in the case was accessed by Republic TV on the 8th of October itself, which showed that India Today was named in the FIR, not Republic TV as alleged by Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh.