Ex-BARC CEO got money from Arnab Goswami, reduced other channels’ TRPs: Police
The Mumbai crime branch, which is probing the television rating points (TRP) manipulation fraud, has claimed that the arrested accused and Partho Dasgupta, ex-chief executive officer (CEO) of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), was directly in touch with Republic Television’s owner Arnab Goswami and had received lakhs of rupees at least six times in Indian as well as foreign currency from Goswami between 2017 and 2018 at different locations in Mumbai.
At the time of going to print, Republic TV had not issued a statement on the development and the channel’s representatives were unavailable for a comment.
Dasgupta was produced before a magistrate court on Monday and his police remand was extended till December 31. He was arrested from Pune on December 24 while he was on the run. Police later traced him to Goa. By the time the team reached Goa, Dasgupta had left for Nashik.
“We learnt that he has left in a Mercedes AMG car, owned by BARC; however, the car was not found at any toll naka,” said assistant inspector Sachin Vaze, who is part of the investigation team. Mumbai crime branch then sent another team to Pune. After a woman constable noticed a similar person sitting in a Creta, Dasgupta was taken out from the vehicle and was brought to Mumbai, Vaze added. “Dasgupta in his statement revealed that he met Goswami in 2004, and they worked together at a channel,” said Vaze.
A person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named said that Dasgupta and Goswami have known each other for years and worked together for Times Now, where the former was in charge of marketing and the latter in charge of the editorial operations. Their association continued when Goswami left to start Republic and Dasgupta moved to run BARC.
“Goswami later took his help to manipulate TRPs. They met at a five-star hotel in 2017. Goswami had given him US $6,000 for a holiday trip to Sweden and Denmark. With that amount, Dasgupta allegedly bought a wristwatch and silver ornaments worth ₹2.22 lakh, which police have recovered from him,” added Vaze.
According to the person cited above, Dasgupta was very impressed with Goswami, and the TV in his room in BARC was always tuned to Times Now (as long as Goswami was there), and later Republic TV. BARC is a joint industry body, a Section 8 company (a section for incorporating an entity engaged in research, social welfare, charity etc) governed by a board of TV industry chiefs. The person added that BARC’s guidelines say a channel’s rating should be reported only 12 weeks after its launch (because most channels invest heavily in marketing in initial weeks, resulting in a fake bump). Republic Hindi’s rating, this person added, was reported in a matter of a few weeks.
Police have also found evidence in terms of WhatsApp chats and messages exchanged between Goswami and Dasgupta. They recovered Dasgupta’s official laptop and other electronic devices which have been sent to a forensic science laboratory to retrieve data, Vaze said. Dasgupta allegedly helped Goswami in the manipulation of TRP by reducing the data of other channels to make Republic number at the number one position, added Vaze.
The person cited above said that when the rating of one channel is manipulated upwards, that of all other channels sees a dip. But it also renders almost all the ratings useless.
On Monday, police recorded the statement of the chief operating officer of Republic TV, Priya Mukherjee.