Mumbai: Conspiring with former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) chief Partho Dasgupta to manipulate Television Rating Points (TRPs), causing losses to rival channel Times Now, using dual logical channel numbers (LCNs) to jack up ratings, and indirectly paying households to watch Republic Network channels — these are some of the allegations the Mumbai Police has made against the Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami while naming him as an accused in the case related to alleged tampering of TRPs by a few TV channels.
The Mumbai Police Tuesday filed the second supplementary charge sheet, running into 1,912 pages, adding names of Goswami and six others as accused in the case. CFO Shiva Sundaram, COO Priya Mukherjee, chief manager Shivendra Mulherkar and manager (distribution) Ranjeet Walter are the other names from ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, which owns the Republic Network channels. The first two charge sheets had just said “Republic owners” were wanted accused.
The rest of the two accused are Sanjay Verma and Amit Dave, both from Teleone Consumer Products, which runs the MahaMovie channel that is under the scanner for alleged fixing of TRPs.
The seven accused have been charged under sections of the Indian Penal Code related to criminal breach of trust, cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, forgery, destruction of evidence, conspiracy and harbouring offender.
“It has been established that the accused collided together and hatched a conspiracy with the intention of benefiting Republic TV and Republic Bharat through their companies through dual LCNs by violating regulations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI),” the Mumbai Police said in the charge sheet, seen by ThePrint.
LCN is an identification number assigned to a TV channel, and having dual LCNs allows a channel to be placed outside their genres by distributors and helps push up ratings.
The case, in which the Mumbai Police first launched an FIR in October 2020, relates to a few channels allegedly manipulating TRPs to boost their viewership and thus their advertising revenue.
‘Goswami confirmed WhatsApp chats with Dasgputa’
In the charge sheet, the Mumbai Police said it had sent a set of questions to Goswami, which he answered, including admitting to certain WhatsApp chats with former BARC chief Dasgupta.
The Mumbai Police had recovered the WhatsApp conversations from Dasgupta, and the chats showed how he and Goswami allegedly colluded to give Republic TV an advantage over rivals.
The charge sheet also said Times Now allegedly unjustly suffered losses, while Goswami’s company got undue benefits because of the relations between Goswami and Dasgupta. “Officials of Times Now channel have informed that the channel suffered losses of Rs 431 crore between June 2017 and March 2018 when Dasgupta was working with BARC,” the Mumbai Police has said in its charge sheet.
As part of the investigation, the Mumbai Police had in a letter dated 21 December 2020 requested BARC to provide data for Times Now as well as Republic TV from 2016 to 2018, saying “there are reasons to believe that the data published was different from data received specifically with respect to television channels Times Now and Republic”.
The notice also said there are reasons to believe that manipulation of data and internal process would have resulted in financial implications — direct or indirect. While the raw outlier data shows Times Now has higher impressions, Republic TV had higher impressions after “data cleaning”.
Goswami did not respond to ThePrint’s calls and text message.
The Mumbai Police has alleged that there is evidence to establish that Republic TV and Republic Bharat were using dual LCNs to increase their viewership. The charge sheet noted that the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) had written to the TRAI about it on multiple occasions.
A set of WhatsApp chats, which the Mumbai Police recovered from Priya Mukherjee, showed Goswami was part of a number of WhatsApp groups within his company, and that he was aware of discussions on the group regarding using LCNs to illegally increase TRPs, according to the charge sheet.
Moreover, the charge sheet said, ARG Outlier indirectly paid households where BARC had installed barometers to watch Republic TV and Republic Bharat. The barometers, which were installed through Hansa Research, record the television viewing of these households based on which TRP is calculated.
The Mumbai Police also alleged that Dasgupta received kickbacks for manipulating TRPs of Republic TV and keeping it at the number one position. “From the money received from Goswami, Dasgupta bought expensive things, jewellery and different ornaments of gold and silver, which have been recovered from him,” the police said in the charge sheet.
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