Maharashtra: The former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, Partho Dasgupta, has claimed in a handwritten statement to Mumbai Police that he allegedly received US$12,000 from Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for two separate holidays and a total of Rs 40 lakhs over three years, in return for manipulating ratings in favor of the news channel, according to the supplementary charge sheet filed in the TRP scam case.
The Mumbai police filed a 3600-page supplementary charge sheet on January 11 against Dasgupta, former COO of BARC Romil Ramgarhia, and Republic Media Network CEO Vikas Khanchandani for alleged manipulation of channel ratings. In this charge sheet, the police have also used screenshots of the WhatsApp conversations between Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami and former CEO of BARC. The most surprising thing in the meantime is, "in this conversation, Arnab Goswami has offered to mediate the political leadership on behalf of Dasgupta on several occasions.''
Dasgupta’s statement reads: “I have known Arnab Goswami since 2004. We used to work together in Times Now. I joined BARC as CEO in 2013. Arnab Goswami launched Republic in 2017. Even before launching Republic TV, he would talk to me about plans for the launch and indirectly hint at helping him to get good ratings for his channel. Goswami knew very well that I know how the TRP system works. He also alluded to helping me out in the future.”
It states: “I worked with my team to ensure manipulation of TRP ratings that made Republic TV get to number 1 rating. This would have continued from 2017 to 2019. Towards this, in 2017 Arnab Goswami had personally met me at St Regis hotel, Lower Parel, and given me 6000 dollars cash for my France and Switzerland family trip…also in 2019 Arnab Goswami had personally met me at St Regis and given me 6000 dollars for my Sweden and Denmark family trip. Also in 2017, Goswami had personally met me at ITC Parel hotel and given me Rs 20 lakhs cash, also in 2018 and 2019. Goswami met me at ITC hotel Parel and gave me Rs 10 lakhs each time.” Dasgupta's statement has been refuted by his lawyer Arjun Singh.
The first charge sheet was filed in November 2020 against 12 people. The second document details Dasgupta's statement, which was recorded on December 27, 2020, at 5:15 pm at the office of the Crime Intelligence Unit in the presence of two witnesses. It also includes a BARC forensic audit report, WhatsApp chats purportedly between Dasgupta and Goswami, and statements of 59 persons, including former council employees and cable operators.
The audit report names several news channels, including Republic, Times Now, and Aaj Tak, and lists instances of alleged manipulation as well as “pre-fixing” of ratings for the channels by BARC’s top executives.
The audit was conducted by Acquisory Risk Consulting. The executive summary of the audit report states that “manipulation was evidenced in 2017, 18 and 19 across English News Genre and Telugu News Genre”.
Some of the instances cited in the report point to changed ratings that resulted in Republic being the top channel in English news from 2017. It cites emails and messages as evidence for weeks in which Times Now’s data and ratings were decreased, giving Republic the edge. The charge sheet also includes statements by cable operators that they were asked to show Republic on two channels to increase its TRP in exchange for the money two operators said they were asked to raise vouchers of Rs 11,800 each.
The audit report was provided to Mumbai Police in December, two months after it registered an FIR in the TRP case.