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'Rs 431 Crores Loss To Times Now Due To TRP Rigging' : Mumbai Police In Chargesheet Against Republic TV Chief Arnab Goswami

Sharmeen Hakim
23 Jun 2021 4:27 AM GMT
Rs 431 Crores Loss To Times Now Due To TRP Rigging : Mumbai Police In Chargesheet Against Republic TV Chief Arnab Goswami
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Arnab Goswami, Managing Director of ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, connived and conspired with BARC's ex-CEO Partho Dasgupta to illegally tamper with Television Rating Points and ensured that Republic TV remained in number one position, the Mumbai police have said in its supplementary charge sheet. Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) measures the TRPs, which dictates...

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Arnab Goswami, Managing Director of ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, connived and conspired with BARC's ex-CEO Partho Dasgupta to illegally tamper with Television Rating Points and ensured that Republic TV remained in number one position, the Mumbai police have said in its supplementary charge sheet.

Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) measures the TRPs, which dictates a channel's advertising revenue.

On Tuesday, the police's Special Investigation Team (SIT) filed a 1,934 page supplementary charge sheet citing Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV and six others as accused for the first time in the Television Rating Points scam (TRP). ARG owns Republic TV and Republic Bharat, and Goswami is the company's Managing Director as well.

They have all been charged under sections 406 and 409 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating), 465 and 468 (forgery), 120B (conspiracy), 174 and 179 (non-cooperation during the investigation), 201 and 204 (destruction of evidence), 212 (harbouring offenders). Earlier, 15 people were charge-sheeted.

The police cited Goswami's acceptance of his 'controversial' WhatsApp chats with Dasgupta as crucial evidence to indict him in the TRP scam. Dasgupta was earlier arrested and charge-sheeted in the scam. He is currently out on bail.

"We have found evidence to show they exchanged confidential information about BARC, repeatedly to benefit Goswami's channels (Republic TV and Republic Bharat)," the charge sheet claims.

It adds that Dasgupta used the money received from Goswami in return to buy costly material, jewellery and various gold and silver ornaments, which the police have seized.

Dual LCN Technology

The Mumbai police have alleged that the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) had complained to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) several times about Goswami's channels Republic TV and Republic Bharat using Dual Landing Channel Numbers (LCN) Technology.

Multi-System Operators (MSO) and Cable operators use this technology to telecast one channel on two different channel numbers, resulting in increased TRPs.

TRAI has taken action and sent a report to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the charge sheet states.

"Multi-System Operators/Cable operators, in consent with ARG and Arnab Goswami, as its MD, were running the two channels on more than one channel numbers using the LCN Technology, which is in breach of the TRAI's provisions," it adds.

Statements of several MSOs and Cable operators have been recorded u/s 164 of the CrPC.

WhatsApp Groups

Attributing knowledge to Goswami regarding the use of Dual LCN technology, the police say that he was a member of various WhatsApp groups for his company's smooth functioning. They have cited conversations on those WhastApp groups regarding the use of Dual LCN technology to illegally increase Republic's TRPs. The charge sheet says they have seized WhatsApp chats of Republic TV's COO Priya Mukherjee in this regard as well.

Rs 431 crore loss to Times Now

Citing an official's statement from Times Now, the police claim the company suffered huge losses due to Goswami and Dasgupta's bond.

It states that between June 2017 and March 2018, with Partho Dasgupta working as BARC's CEO, Times Now's TRPs were reduced compared to Republic TVs, due to which Times Now's revenue went down by Rs 431 crore.

"It is discovered that due to the relations between Partho Dasgupta and Arnab Goswami, Times Now was illegally made to face losses. And Arnab's company made revenue illegally."

According to Vivek Srivastava, President of Times Global Broadcasting Co Ltd, in December 2020, they learned through then Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh's press conference that BARC's new CEO had commissioned a forensic audit by Acquisory Risk Consulting (ARC) into TRP rigging. The report showed that Times Now's ratings were deliberately tampered with.

In his statement to the police attached to the supplementary charge sheet, Srivastava says they hired an audit firm to analyse the forensic audit report. They procured the report from the court after making an application for a certified copy of the earlier charge sheet. Based on the company's previous year's earnings, the audit firm concluded that Times Now's losses between 2017 and 2018 were to the tune of Rs 431 crore.

Money For Views

The charge sheet reiterates how ARG Outlier's Assistant Vice President Ghanshyam Singh paid a middle man to ensure increased TRPs. The money paid was allegedly used to bribe Hansa Research employees and households where the bar-o-meters were installed so that they watched Republic TV's channels for the maximum period, the charge sheet claims.

BARC had hired Hansa Research group in Maharashtra to install bar-o-meters and measure the TRPs.

Republic's other Employees

Apart from Goswami, the other accused charge-sheeted are ARG Outlier's Chief Operating Officer Priya Mukherjee, Chief Financial Officer Siva Subramaniam, and two other employees Shivendra Mulherkar and Ranjit Walter. Earlier, the channels CEO Vikas Khanchandani and Singh were charge-sheeted and arrested.

The agency alleged that Mukherjee had approved the amount to be paid to Multi-System Operators and Cable operators for the Dual LCN technology.

"It is disclosed she has had WhatsApp conversations with Ghanshyam Singh regarding the use of Dual LCN technology to boost TRPs. But the phone used for communication seems to have been destroyed by her as it had important technical evidence."

Regarding ARG's Chief Manager Shivendu Mulherkar, the charge sheet claims he was the one who conducted meetings with MSOs for Dual LCN, "under the garb of marketing." He prepared invoices for the money to be paid money to MSOs/Cable operators as well.

Mulherkar allegedly worked under Mukherjee and provided proof to her to show that the channels were being telecast using the dual LCN technology. He is aware of how the dealings happened for Dual LCN Technology, the document alleges.

The Case

The Mumbai Police registered a case on October 6 last year after BARC accused certain television channels of rigging TRPs through illegal means. BARC had installed 2,000 barometers in Mumbai to monitor TRPs and released weekly ratings for TV channels across all genres in India.

It had further given a contract to Hansa Research for the job of barometers. The police claim that channels were paying money to intermediaries like employees of Hansa Research — which measures TRPs on behalf of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) — to boost the TRPs.

High Court Grants Arnab Protection

On March 24, 2021, the Bombay High Court granted Goswami, represented by law firm Phoenix Legal, limited protection from arrest in his petition alleging 'serious malafides' against the police, especially against the then Mumbai CP Param Bir Singh.

The police had then given an undertaking to the court to complete the probe against him within 12 weeks.


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