TRP Scam: Lawyer Calls Arnab & Dasgupta’s Chats ‘Banter’

Seeking a deadline to complete the probe, the court scheduled the next hearing on 24 March.

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Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. Image used for representational purposes.
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Senior counsel representing ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd Ashok Mundargi on Monday, 22 March, told the Bombay High Court that the WhatsApp chats between Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO Partho Dasgupta were “banter between two close friends”, LiveLaw reported.

Republic TV is run by ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd. A division bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale on Monday heard a plea filed by the media company seeking to quash the Mumbai Police’s FIR and the charge sheet filed in the TRP manipulation case.

Mundargi alleged that the probe aims to arrest Goswami and once that was done, the investigation will stop.

What Is the TRP Scam?

Earlier in October 2020, the Mumbai Police had claimed to have busted a ‘TRP scam’, whereby Television Rating Points (TRPs) had allegedly been manipulated. The erstwhile Mumbai Police Commissioner, Param Bir Singh, had said that ratings by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), which measures television ratings in India, were being manipulated.

The police named Republic TV and two other Marathi channels that were allegedly involved in the practice.

They further said that sample houses, where bar-o-meters had been installed to monitor the ratings, were paid to watch certain TV channels to boost the TRP. The amount paid was between Rs 400 and Rs 500 per house per month.

Explaining that TRPs were used by channels to get higher advertising revenue, the police said that the money made from such ‘manipulation’ will be seen as “proceeds of crime”.

500 Pages of WhatsApp Conversations

Around 500 pages of WhatsApp conversations between Goswami and Dasgupta were annexed in the charge sheet filed in the fake TRP scam case.

Dasgupta had been arrested in the case back in December 2020. During that period, his phone had been seized. The chats recovered from his phone were eventually leaked on social media and news channels. Subsequently, Dasgupta was granted bail on a bond of Rs 6 lakh by the Bombay High Court on Tuesday, 2 March 2020.

The alleged chats showed Goswami complaining about TRP rankings of his competitors while Dasgupta expressed his displeasure about the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and requested him to help him get an advisor’s post with the Prime Minister’s Office.

The chats included several alleged conversations between Goswami and Dasgupta regarding various events (and Republic’s coverage of them), including the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strike in February 2019, hinting that national-level confidential knowledge was being communicated to the Republic TV editor-in-chief.

While referring to the chats between Dasgupta and Goswami, Mundargi responded that the chats had been “taken out of context” by the Mumbai Police to build its case. He further said that there wasn’t a single message that showed TRP manipulation being discussed. “They were discussing topics that two friends might ordinarily discuss,” he added.

The court asked the police to set a deadline to complete the investigation. Seeking the police’s response, the next hearing will be on Wednesday, 24 March.

(With inputs from LiveLaw.in)

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