A supplementary charge sheet filed by the Mumbai Police on 11 January in the TRP Scam contains over 200 pages of purported WhatsApp conversations between Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami and then CEO of BARC, Partho Dasgupta, discussing ways to “manipulate” the ratings.
BARC, the primary body which measures the television ratings in India, is suggestive of a bid by top BARC executives to control ratings in the favour of Republic TV and the Hindi channel Republic Bharat. The WhatsApp chats, running over 1000 pages shows the officials making recommendations to Republic TV on procedures to boost rating. The chats also showcase that Arnab had significant involvement in the matters of the government. This created a big stir on social media as well.
Goswami, in return, has kept Dasgupta informed about government affairs - workings of the information and broadcasting ministry, cabinet reshuffle, the appointment of secretaries, and much more.
There was a consistent flow of communication between the two which started in early 2017 until October 2020.
The TRP scam came to light in October last year after BARC filed a police complaint through its associate Hansa Research Group, claiming that several news channels including Republic TV were involved in the scam, ‘rigging their TRP numbers’. Eventually, the employees of Republic TV and BARC were listed in the FIR. The case is pending before the Bombay High Court. The hearing of the same has been adjourned till 29th January 2021.
Dasgupta is named as a prime accused in the scam and is already in the custody. At the time Dasgupta was arrested in late December 2020, the police claimed that he had been bribed with lakhs of money to manipulate Republic TV’s TRP.
Thirteen people have been arrested in the case so far, including Republic TV Chief Vikas Khanchandani. He has since been released on bail. Former BARC Chief Operation Officer Romil Ramgarhia remains in custody as does Former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta.
The chats reveal Dasgupta guiding Goswami on programming and distribution, also asking Romil Ramgarhia to inform the Vikas Khanchandani where to increase the channel’s distribution.
“Ask Vikas to keep Romil in the loop too, they know each other well,” Dasgupta said to Goswami.
“Just check, because of TMC pressure, have cable operators been forced not to air your channel in Bengal.” In another chat, he told Goswami in relation to ratings trends, “Clearly you are gaining in All India numbers but 1 million plus numbers times is gaining. Have asked for a deep dive on that,” Dasgupta once told Goswami.
One chat between Dasgupta and Ramgarhia shows how the policy was altered to help Republic TV. On May 17, 2017. Ramgarhia messaged Dasgupta, “Also change the policy on the website stating 2-4 weeks releasing data from Republic from 6 May onwards.” BARC India’s early policy was to put out news channels, viewership after 4 weeks, which was changed to release Republic’s data.
He also asked Ramgarhia to inform Khanchandani about a drop in reach, “Tell Vikas they have no traction in Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta.” Dasgupta wrote in one of his messages, “Start messaging Vikas, if they lose Chennai, they will lose India since in the other markets they are not doing well. They are super dependent on Chennai.”
In addition, he regularly shared queries from TRAI and other media pertaining to republic TV and viewership with Goswami, seeking his inputs.
The chat also shows that before his exit from BARC, Dasgupta asked Goswami if he could help him get an influential position in the govt, particularly that of “a media advisory kind.”