The Mumbai Police submitted before a court on Monday that Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami had allegedly bribed television rating agency Broadcast Audience Research Council’s former Chief Executive Officer Partho Dasgupta with “lakhs of rupees” to ramp up his channel’s viewership, The Indian Express reported.
This is the first time the city police have named Goswami for his involvement in the alleged Television Rating Points manipulation scam. Dasgupta, on the other hand, was arrested in connection with the case on December 24, and was last week remanded to judicial custody till December 28.
“When Dasgupta was the Broadcast Audience Research Council, or BARC, CEO, Arnab Goswami and other accused in the case conspired to illegally increase the TRPs of Republic Bharat Hindi news channel and Republic TV English news channel,” the police told the metropolitan magistrate’s court. “In order to do that, Goswami on several occasions paid Dasgupta lakhs of rupees, it has been established in the investigation.”
The report stated that Goswami allegedly paid another senior BARC official, former Chief Operating Officer Romil Ramgarhia, to manipulate the ratings of Republic TV’s English and Hindi channels, according to NDTV. Ramgarhia is accused of “providing secret and confidential information to certain channels”, and was arrested on December 17.
The police alleged that Dasgupta was the “mastermind” of the ruse, who fudged viewership numbers and data for financial gains. It requested the court to extend Dasgupta’s custody in order to ascertain if he made more such payments to other channels.
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The former BARC executive allegedly used the money to purchase jewellery and other valuables that were seized from his residence. “The purchases include one Tag Heuer watch worth approximately Rs 1 lakh and imitation jewellery and stones worth Rs 2.22 lakh,” police said.
“Dasgupta misused his official position and manipulated TRP of specific news channels broadcast by ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, such as Republic Bharat and Republic TV,” the police added.
Mumbai Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze told The Indian Express that Dasgupta had confessed during questioning that Goswami had met him at least three times in separate hotels in Mumbai, and “made payments worth lakhs in cash, including once in US dollars”.
A fake TRP racket was uncovered in October when the Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group – one of BARC’s vendors on engagement with panel homes, or “people’s meters”. Channels were accused of rigging their TRPs by bribing some households to watch it.
On December 25, Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe had said that a forensic audit report of the rating agency’s data had revealed that numbers were being manipulated at least since 2016. Bharambe said that the manipulations which were done to a greater extent for English and Telugu news channels, resulted in showing Republic TV as the top ranked channel, in terms of ratings.
Several Republic TV officials have already been questioned in the case. Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were the other channels named during the preliminary investigation.