‘Republic Gave Us a Bad Name’: How News Debates Covered ‘TRP Scam’

While some channels called for Arnab Goswami’s arrest, others said the issue is part of a deeper political problem.

8 min read
‘Republic Gave Us a Bad Name’: How News Debates Covered ‘TRP Scam’

The nation wants to know what exactly the Republic TV-TRP rigging controversy is.

News channels on Thursday evening had several answers: a “scam”, “scandal”, “dhokha”, “cheating”, “saazish”, “fraud”, “vishwaasghaat”, “racket”, “chori”.

Between 4pm and 10pm, television news was a roulette of these weighty words as news breaker Arnab Goswami (not for the first time) became the news maker.

The Mumbai Police on Thursday, 8 October, addressed a press conference, claiming that it has busted a "TRP scam", whereby Television Rating Points (TRPs) were being rigged.

The conference, led by Commissioner of Mumbai Police, Param Bir Singh, named Republic TV and two other Marathi channels who it said were involved in the malpractice. Four people have been arrested in connection with the matter and Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami is also likely to be summoned.

Not surprisingly, the alleged scam was the focus of every primetime news debate on television. Among the major themes that emerged from the primetime debates were:

  • Republic TV has affected the credibility of other news channels.
  • This is not just about TRPs but goes deeper and wider.
  • The police’s claims deserve a thorough investigation.
  • The issue of TRP manipulation has touched a raw nerve among news channels.

The Quint sat through news debates across all major television channels on Thursday evening to decode and dissect how the controversy, pertaining to the news media itself and involving one of the most polarising individuals on television, played out.


ABP NEWS (5pm)

“Republic TV ki TRP saazish ki poll khuli” (Republic TV’s TRP conspiracy unmasked) read the channel’s top band.

First off, the blocks was ABP News’ Rubika Liyaquat. The central theme of her debate was one that was later echoed across most news shows – Republic TV is giving other news channels and journalists a bad name.

As developments related to the alleged TRP rigging kept trickling in, Liyaquat made an impassioned case with her panelists, including senior journalist Dibang, that Republic TV “has sidelined every principle of journalism” and “today it was finally clear who the real villain is.”

Dibang confirmed that murmurs of TRP manipulation have been around for years.

AAJ TAK (6pm)

Republic TV TRP Chor Hai!” (Republic TV is a TRP thief)

Aaj Tak’s popular show ‘Halla Bol’, hosted by Anjana Om Kashyap, was far more direct and confrontational. This was made clear by the name of the Thursday’s episode mentioned above.

Unlike ABP News, Aaj Tak had a reporter outside Republic TV’s office in Mumbai and another outside Arnab’s residence. While the correspondents echoed Liyaquat’s points about facing a crisis of credibility because of Republic TV’s agenda driven and irresponsible journalism, Kashyap appeared to be in no mood to play it down.

Kashyap’s primary arguments revolved around how Republic TV has cheated the nation and now stood exposed as slugs on the channel read “Farzi TRP wala channel benaqaab” (The channel with fake TRPs unmasked) and “Republic ka Bharat se Dhokha” (Republic cheats Bharat).

Republic Bharat and Aaj Tak have been locked in a bitter TRP battle, and among the other points that Kashyap drove home was the distinction between Republic’s “propaganda ki patrakaarita” (propaganda journalism) and their fact-driven reporting.



“ matter how pathetic your journalism is, if it can even be called pathetic journalism, you have the right to present your case in a court of law.” – Rahul Kanwal

Like Aaj Tak and Republic Bharat, their English counterparts India Today and Republic TV have often locked horns in the TRP battle. Arnab has often used the weekly TRP ratings to thumb his nose at the TV Today Group’s channels.

With this as the background of an increasingly acrimonious rivalry, India Today’s news director and host of Newstrack, Rahul Kanwal adopted a scathing yet dignified debate on Arnab and his channel.

Unlike ABP News and Aaj Tak, Kanwal, who had senior journalist Ashutosh among his panelists, focused more on the importance of a thorough investigation into a “corrupt” rating system.

However, while Kanwal ran a relatively low-decibel debate, his graphics did the heavy lifting. From cautioning viewers that they were being cheated to quantifying the scale of the alleged racket, the primetime show’s opening graphics and subsequent slugs did not pull any punches.

Kanwal, however, saved his best lines for the end. Like his colleague Anjana Om Kashyap, Kanwal, too, chose to end his show by distinguishing between the brand of journalism practised by him and Arnab Goswami.

In a dig at Republic’s judge-jury-executioner style debates, Kanwal proclaimed “We run a newsroom and not a courtroom.”

“You are innocent till you are proven guilty Mr Goswami. And no matter how pathetic your journalism is, if it can even be called pathetic journalism, you have the right to present your case in a court of law. And we will wait for a real judge to tell whether you are guilty or not.”
Rahul Kanwal

NDTV (8pm & 9pm)

“Beginning of the end for hate-for-profit media?”

NDTV ran two back-to-back shows focusing on the TRP controversy and Republic TV, with slugs like the one mentioned above.

While Sreenivasan Jain conducted a discussion on it at 9 pm, Sanket Upadhyay held a one-hour special on the “#RatingsScam”, with guests ranging from senior journalists N Ram and Kumar Ketkar to former Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi and analyst Geeta Bhat.

NDTV had the most serious and in-depth debate among channels on not just the problem of TRP system but also on wider political, economic and social dimensions of manipulation through television news.

However, perhaps, driven by the proximity of the topic to its own field, NDTV’s uncharacteristically direct slugs read “TRP for Sale” and “Accused of cheating, now invoking ‘SanatanDharm’”.


The gravity of the topic for the news media industry at large could, perhaps, be gauged from the fact that even NDTV India’s Raveesh Kumar chose to focus on the issue in his 9 pm primetime show.

The gravity of the topic for the news media industry at large could, perhaps, be gauged from the fact that even NDTV India’s Raveesh Kumar chose to focus on the issue in his 9 pm primetime show.

Kumar adopted the line “ye sirf TRP ka mamla nahi hai” (This isn’t just about TRPs) as his leit motif as he spent nearly 40 minutes peeling the layers of a nexus among ratings, propaganda, politics and economics. Also, the cleanest and least cluttered screen among all news channels.

TIMES NOW (8pm & 9pm)

“Republic TV Cheated Bharat”

While Rahul Shivshankar’s 8 pm show accused Goswami of cheating the country, Navika Kumar’s 9 pm primetime called it a straight up scam.

Apart from India Today, Times Now has also been locked in a bitter ratings battle with Republic TV, and it wasn’t going to let it off lightly. Dramatic proclamations by the anchors, allegations flowing thick and fast while demands of the police to arrest Goswami also kept popping up.

Shivshankar, explaining what the TRP ratings mean, said that every Thursday, hearts of journalists at Times Now are almost in their mouths as they await weekly BARC data.

A visibly miffed Shivshankar, whose chosen sobriquet from Goswami was “national judge-in-chief” slammed Goswami for talking about due procedure, accusing him of disregarding any procedure and has threatened anyone who carries the Mumbai Police presser with defamation.

Taking the baton from Shivshankar, Navika Kumar kept up the tough line of questioning of Republic TV.

She said that if she doesn’t cover this, she would be glossing over the rot of her own industry. “A scam is a scam is a scam,” said Navika, adding since this is in public domain as a criminal case, and when it is a criminal case, “it is my Dharma as a reporter.”

CNN-NEWS 18 (9pm)


CNN News 18’s Zaka jacob threw his hat in the ring as well and led a spirited campaign against TRP rigging by rival Republic.

He said that Mumbai Police investigation into Republic TV and two other channels allegedly rigging TV ratings is a welcome step and is the worst-kept secret of TV industry.

Jacob reminded viewers that the complaint has come from BARC, and not a rival television channel and hence important that this investigation does not turn into a witch-hunt.

Author-Journalist Saba Naqvi said that it is cheating as it’s about getting ad revenues by pretending to be ahead of others in terms of revenue.



“This man is on weed. He can’t tell his nose from his ears.”
- Madhu Kishwar on Commissioner Param Bir Singh.

Republic TV was ready with its defense.

Having called Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh “a coward” serving “his political masters” in a 15-minute long response at 5 pm, Arnab drove out of his residence flashing the ‘V’ sign, a wide smile across his face and arrived at the studios ready to defend himself.

Following a 15-minute monologue to kick off this special debate, he was joined by a cast of 12 panelists. Two among them had the role of calling for a probe while being kept on mute.

In a 360 degree twist, Arnab held aloft an alleged copy of the FIR, and waving it at the camera, read aloud that the complaint names India Today and not Republic TV. This set the tone for the rest of the debate as other panelists gasped in disbelief at the unexpected turning of the tables.

Arnab, aided by a familiar supporting cast of panelists, launched into an attack on the Mumbai police commissioner, calling for his resignation. Earlier, he had appealed to the channel’s viewers to help him give a befitting reply to Mumbai Police.

Meanwhile, the channel’s hashtag #RepublicFightsBack started trending at number 1 globally, according to the channel. Accusing the police of “being rattled by the SSR coverage”, the top and lower bands read.


Arnab Goswami managed to make a cameo on rival India Today’s channel during Rahul Kanwal’s debate for exactly a couple of seconds. “Main aap se baat karna chahta hoon” (I want to speak with you) ran aloud Arnab’s voice as Madhu Kishwar, who was presumably watching Arnab’s response on Republic Bharat, perhaps, accidentally played it out loud.

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