Mumbai: Amid the ongoing thorough inquiry into the TRP scam, 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.
A 3,600-page supplementary charge sheet, 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, Zee News reported.
The supplementary charge sheet 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 charge sheet, 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…”
Last week, Mumbai Police submitted an eye-opening Whatsapp conversation which was exchanged between chief Arnab Goswami, and Partha Dasgupta, minutely discussing Pulwama attack, which left over 40 CRPF personnel dead in February 2019, and the Balakot airstrike that India said it carried out in retaliation of the same month.
Besides these two shocking revelations, the duo also discussed the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status a week before its abrogation.
“Order will be made in 1 week. Curfew will be imposed two days ahead of order. It will automatically abrogate Article 370 and 35A,” reads Goswami’s Whatsapp chat.
On August 5, 2019, Government of India stripped JK of its semi-autonomous status, revoked its statehood and split the erstwhile state into two Union Territories – JK and Ladakh.
In another instance in the chat, Goswami acknowledged how the attack in Pulwama helped him and his channel to gain audience “this attack we have won like crazy”, he wrote on February 14, 2019, 5:43 PM.
Goswami was discussing the Balakot Air Strike three days before it happened, which shows that he was already aware of what the Government of India had termed “top secret mission“.
After Balakot, Goswami also consoled Partha Dasgupta saying, ‘More to come’.
“On Pakistan, the Government is very confident of striking in a way that people will be elated”, Goswami almost seems to smirk through text messages, as he and Dasgupta discussed everything at length, ranging from knowing about military attacks and their purposes to handling their own positions at the various media offices.
Completely keeping aside professional ethics, Goswami and Dasgupta also discuss politicians, news networks and ways to have each others’ backs.
The chats revealed BARC’s lobbying with high post minister’ in Narendra Modi led Government of India, while Goswami even asks Dasgupta to ‘ moderate the influence’ that the landing page feature has on the TV18 Channel’s ratings.
In a pretty coaxing mood, Goswami thanks Dasgupta for paving the former’s way; otherwise he’d have been ‘languishing in NDTV’.
In the chats of August 2017, the onetime TIMES Group colleagues mutually agreed upon working together ‘raw level’ and meeting Smriti Irani separately, regarding controversial landing page issue, which had then been discussed in the parliament.
The Whatsapp chats, running over 1000 pages, are part of the 3400-page supplementary charge sheet that the Mumbai Police filed earlier this week.
When Dasgupta was arrested in December 2020, the remand notice said, “Dasgupta misused his official post and manipulated TRP of specific news channels broadcast like Republic, Bharat Hindi and Republic TV English”.
The October 2019 messages diligently show that Dasgupta knew about the influence Goswami had over the Narendra Modi’s office and therefore asks Goswami to ‘speak to his contacts’ and get him ‘a Media Advisor kind of position’ with PMO.
Meanwhile, Pakistan in a statement issued on Sunday said that the February 2019 Pulwama attack was a “false flag operation” staged by Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government of India (GoI) to malign its neighbour’s image.
Pakistan cited the purported WhatsApp chats of Arnab Goswami, which suggested that he had prior knowledge about the Balakot airstrikes.
“The recent transcripts revelations in India further vindicate our consistent position that RSS-BJP [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bharatiya Janata Party] government stages ‘false flag’ operations; maligns Pakistan with terrorism-related allegations; stokes hyper-nationalism in its bid to win elections,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement.
Referring to the BJP government as a “Hindutva regime”, the spokesperson said that the WhatsApp transcripts reveal the “unholy nexus” between the dispensation and its “cronies” in Indian media.
“Such actions by the reckless regime driven by considerations of domestic politics are gravely imperilling regional peace and security,” the statement said.
It stressed that Pakistan will continue to counter India’s falsehoods with truth and act “firmly and responsibly in the face of India’s provocations”.