The Mumbai Police have said in their supplementary chargesheet that Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami conspired with former Broadcast Audience Research Council chief Partho Dasgupta to illegally tamper with the Television Rating Points, Live Law reported on Wednesday.
The police said the tampering with the TRP ensured that Republic TV remained at No. 1 position among other news channels.
On Tuesday, the Mumbai Police had named Goswami and six others as accused in the TRP scam. The supplementary chargesheet mentioned offences under Sections 406, 409 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) 465, 468 (forgery), 201, 204 (disappearance or destruction of evidence), 212 (harbouring offender) and 120B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
A fake TRP racket was uncovered in October when BARC filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group – one of the council’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.
In the chargesheet which is over 1,600 pages, the police cited Goswami’s acceptance of his WhatsApp chats with Dasgupta as crucial evidence to indict him in the scam. “We have found evidence to show they exchanged confidential information about BARC, repeatedly to benefit Goswami’s channels [Republic TV and Republic Bharat],” the chargesheet said.
The chargesheet also said that the TRP ratings of Times Now was illegally manipulated so that it went below that of Republic TV channels, reported Bar and Bench. The alleged manipulation happened between June 2017 and March 2018 when Dasgupta was working with BARC.
Due to this, Times Now channel reportedly suffered a loss of Rs 431 crore, an executive of the news channel claimed in the statement to the police. The Crime Branch has concluded that Times Now suffered unjust losses due to the “close relations” that Dasgupta and Goswami shared.
The police claimed that Goswami paid money to Dasgupta, which he used to buy costly items, jewellery and gold and silver ornaments. These have been seized by the police. The police had arrested and chargesheeted Dasgupta earlier but he was granted bail in March.
The police also alleged that Republic TV and Republic Bharat were broadcast through Dual Landing Channel Numbers technology to increase their TRPs. This technology is used by cable operators and multi-system operators to telecast a channel on more than one number. The technology, the police, said, was in violation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India regulations.
The police claimed that Goswami was aware of the use of the technology as he was a member of various WhatsApp groups of channel’s employees. In these groups, conversations allegedly pertained to ensuring that the company channels are broadcast using the technology through illegal means.
The chargesheet also described how Ghanshyam Singh, the assistant vice president of ARG Outlier Media that owns Republic TV, allegedly paid a middleman to ensure an increase in TRPs. It claimed that money was paid to bribe Hansa Research employees and households where bar-o-meters were installed so that they watched Republic TV’s channels for the maximum period.
BARC had hired Hansa Research group in Maharashtra to install these bar-o-meters, which measure the TRPs.
Apart from Goswami, the police have also named Priya Mukherjee, the chief operating officer of Republic TV, and the channel’s chief financial officer Siva Subramaniam in its Tuesday’s chargesheet.
With this, the total number of accused in the case is now 22. In its first chargesheet, the Mumbai Police had said that there were 22 accused in the case. However, chargesheets were filed against only 15 accused before this.
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 added 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.
Since the beginning, Republic TV has denied any wrongdoing on its part, with its executives filing a flurry of lawsuits challenging the cases against them. They alleged that the whole case was malafide and they had been targeted for their reportage about the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the Palghar lynching case.
On December 9, Goswami and ARG Outlier Media had moved the Bombay High Court seeking a stay on the Mumbai Police’s investigation.
On March 24, the High Court had directed the Mumbai Police to give an advance notice of three days to Goswami, if they wanted to arrest him in the case. The bench headed by Justice SS Shinde had also ordered that the investigation against Republic TV should be completed within 12 weeks.