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TRP case against Arnab Goswami: Crime branch finds flaws in Waze’s probe

ByVinay Dalvi,
Sep 02, 2023 04:10 PM IST

Flaws found in the investigation of alleged TRP manipulation by Arnab Goswami; case may be withdrawn.

In a case registered against the managing director and editor-in-chief of Republic Media Network, Arnab Goswami, for alleged manipulation of Television Ratings Points (TRP), in October 2020, Goswami approached the Mumbai police a few months ago citing flaws in the probe. A charge sheet in the case was filed in June 2021.

Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. (HT archive)

Recently, senior officials in the state home department obtained the documents from Mumbai police about the case, and on re-examination found several flaws and apparent malice in the earlier investigation carried out by dismissed police officer, Sachin Waze and his team. Waze was the head of crime intelligence unit (CIU) that investigated the case. The crime branch said the probe was also mired by allegations of bribery demands.

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A senior official from the home department said the file will soon be sent to the law and judiciary department. He said, police analysed the documents of the earlier case and studied investigations done by Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which had also registered cases of alleged TRP manipulation.

It has come to light that the earlier authorities had insisted on registering an offence when there were specific provisions under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 (TRAI) to deal with the allegations. Sources said, in such a case the state government can exercise powers under section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to withdraw criminal prosecutions. Just as it had exercised its powers in July 2021, by issuing orders to withdraw political and social offences against certain activists. Similarly, it also directed withdrawals of several prosecutions pertaining to petty offences during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the police, when the FIR in the case was filed, Mumbai police had said in a press conference that a TRP racket had been busted which involved Republic TV, Box Cinema and Fakt Marathi. It was alleged that the channels were involved in distorting the system used by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to rate television channels based on the viewership.

While Goswami was not named in the FIR, in the second charge sheet he was named an accused.

Meanwhile, the ED which had registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in the case had filed a charge sheet in September 2022. It had cleared the names of Republic TV and R Bharat channels belonging to Goswami from the charge of manipulating the TRPs. The investigating agency had claimed that it had examined the role of Republic channels and found Mumbai police’s probe “at variance with the probe done by the ED”.

It claimed, raw data for the panel households which were allegedly watching Republic channels (according to the police charge sheet) was sought from BARC. “An analysis of viewership pattern showed that these households were watching channels other than Republic TV and R Bharat.” The panel households denied being bribed for watching Republic channels, it said. “Their statements corroborate the raw data kept independently by BARC.”

Though the relationship managers said in their statements that they had paid the panel households to watch the channels, it had not found any money trail so far, the ED said.

The agency further said that the police had relied on a forensic audit which concluded that “the TRP calculation methodology was tinkered with and controls were used to favour specific channels.” However, the auditor appointed by the ED said that the allegations made in the police audit report were “superficial and based on an analysis of limited aspects.”

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