The former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India Partho Dasgupta has alleged in a handwritten statement to Mumbai Police that he received $12,000 from Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for two separate holidays and a total of Rs 40 lakh over three years, for manipulating ratings in favour of the news channel, according to the supplementary chargesheet filed in the TRP scam case.
A massive 3,600-page supplementary chargesheet, filed by Mumbai Police on January 11, 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 and Times Now, and lists instances of alleged manipulation as well as ‘pre-fixing’ of ratings for the channels by BARC’s top executives.
The supplementary chargesheet was filed against Dasgupta, former BARC COO Romil Ramgarhia and Republic Media Network CEO Vikas Khanchandani. A first chargesheet was filed against 12 persons in November 2020.
According to the second chargesheet, Dasgupta’s statement was recorded in the office of the Crime Intelligence Unit on December 27, 2020, at 5.15 pm, in the presence of two witnesses.
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 to his channel. Goswami knew very well that I know how the TRP system works. He also alluded to helping me out in the future.
“I worked with my team to ensure manipulation of TRP ratings that made Republic TV get 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 lakh cash… also in 2018 and 2019… Goswami met me at ITC hotel Parel and gave me Rs 10 lakhs each time…”
Dasgupta’s lawyer Arjun Singh said: “We totally deny this allegation as the statement would have been recorded under duress. It does not have any evidentiary value in the court of law.” When contacted, a member of Goswami’s legal team declined to comment. Goswami has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and alleged he was being targeted.
The chargesheet also includes BARC’s audit report, dated July 24, 2020, which states that evidence “indicated favouritism shown to few channels” and “in some cases, we suspect that the ratings were pre-decided”.
For instance, the report mentions alleged suppression of viewership for Times Now to boost Republic’s weekly rankings, and highlights a purported conversation between BARC’s top executives and a senior marketing executive of a television network.
The practice of placing a channel on the “landing page” was prohibited by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. But that direction was set aside by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, and the matter is now in Supreme Court.
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”.