The Mumbai Police on Tuesday, 22 June, named Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami as an accused in the Television Ratings Points (TRP) scam, nine months after registering an FIR in the case.
Allegations against the television personality pertain to his purported chats with BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta and specific techniques used to manipulate Republic TV’s TRP.
Goswami and four others from ARG Outlier Media (that owns Republic TV) were named in the 1,912-page charge sheet submitted by the Mumbai Crime Branch to the Magistrate Court.
A month before this the Mumbai Police had sought Goswami’s response to 68 questions about the incriminating WhatsApp chats, complaints made before Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and allegations of TRP manipulation.
1,100 Employees | No Involvement of the Editorial Team
Goswami, who is the head of Republic’s editorial team, claimed through a written response to the questionnaire on 24 May that Republic Media has more than 1,100 employees and decisions regarding the issues raised in the case are looked into by the distribution team with no involvement of the editorial team, The Indian Express reported.
Goswami responded to several questions by saying that Republic Media had over 1,100 employees and he was not aware of all the decisions being taken by other departments.
In its 1,912-page supplementary charge sheet filed on Tuesday, the Mumbai Police, has added screenshots of WhatsApp chats of Republic TV employees where discussions on LCNs (the same channel showing at two frequencies), and TRPs have taken place.
Moreover, the police has said that for the alleged manipulation to be conducted and illegal payments to be made for higher TRPs, Goswami’s approval was taken as he is the managing director of ARG Outliers Media Private Limited.
The others accused in the case are Priya Mukherjee, Shivendu Mulekar, and Shiva Sundaram. A total of 22 people had, prior to this, been named in the case including CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Partho Dasgupta and Republic TV's CEO Vikas Khanchandani.
There were three forms of manipulations, the police has alleged in the charge sheet, which included dual LCN and manipulation of barometers installed in panel homes to measure TRPs, and fudging of reports at BARC.
When asked about Republic showing on more than one channel, Goswami said, “Issues concerning the placement of channels are looked into by the distribution team of ARG and the decision-making power on such issues lies with them. Neither I, nor anyone else from the editorial team is involved, leave alone instruct regarding the placement of our channels, which is handled by the competent team,” reported The Indian Express.
Not Possible For Me To Keep Track of WhatsApp Chats
Goswami recused himself on the question of illegal payments made to home operators and cable service providers, saying that the matter was not within his domain. He added, that his 'dominant role' is to discharge editorial functions of ARG.
On WhatsApp groups, some that Goswami is a part of, Republic employees discussed TRPs and dual LCNs. However, feigning ignorance, Goswami said, “I am made part of various WhatsApp groups from time to time, relating to different functions of the company or even social groups (of school or college) but have no active involvement or participation in them. It is not possible for me to keep track of WhatsApp chats or follow each activity,” The Indian Express reported.
Moreover, responding to the multiple complaints made before TRAI by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) against Republic, Goswami replied, “NBA is just a trade association, which regularly files complaints against those who are not its members.”
Goswami asserted, “There has been absolutely no TRP manipulation or malpractice of any kind by Republic Media Network.”
The Mumbai Police had also posed six questions based on WhatsApp chats between Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, claiming that confidential information was shared. However, Goswami has claimed that the chats were 'selectively reproduced' out of context to 'create prejudice, colour the investigation' and discredit him.
Moreover, he highlighted that the chats themselves have no admissibility as evidence.
The police have claimed that Goswami has 'accepted' the chats and added that jewellery and expensive articles seized from Dasgupta were bought through money paid by Goswami for the alleged fudging of data which led to the channel having the highest TRPs.
Meanwhile, Partho Dasgupta has admitted in a written statement to the Mumbai Police that he had received 12 thousand dollars and a total of four million rupees for two foreign trips in three years from Republic Channel editor Arnab Goswami for tampering with TRPs.
When asked about how Republic had high TRPs from the beginning, Goswami claimed that it was 'due to its quality of editorial content'.
On 24 March, the Bombay High Court had granted Goswami limited protection from arrest in his petition alleging 'serious mala fides' against the police, especially against former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh.
(With inputs from The Indian Express)