Arnab Goswami & ex-BARC CEO chats go viral

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MUMBAI: Screenshots of purported WhatsApp conversations between Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami and the arrested ex-CEO of TV ratings agency BARC, Partho Dasgupta – which form part of Mumbai police’s 3,600-page supplementary chargesheet in the TRP scam – made their way into the public domain on Friday and created a big stir on social media.
Among other things, they are suggestive of a bid by top BARC executives to manipulate ratings in favour of Republic TV and the Hindi channel Republic Bharat. The screenshots also show the executives making suggestions to Republic TV on strategies to boost ratings.

Goswami in return appears to have kept Dasgupta informed about government affairs, including the workings of the information & broadcasting ministry, cabinet reshuffle, appointment of secretaries, and more.
The chats document a constant flow of communication between Dasgupta and Goswami and chats between former BARC’s chief operating officer Romil Ramgarhia and Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani. Dasgupta is in judicial custody, while Ramgarhia and Khanchandani are out on bail.

They suggest Dasgupta and Ramgarhia shared confidential information with Republic that they had access to by virtue of their positions. For example, the chats reveal Dasgupta guiding Goswami on programming and distribution and asking Ramgarhia to inform Khanchandani where to increase the channel’s distribution. “Ask Vikas to keep Romil in loop too, they know each other very well,” Dasgupta told Goswami.
On the distribution front, Dasgupta once told Goswami, “Just check, because of TMC pressure, have cable operators been forced not to air your channel in Bengal.” In another chat, he told Goswami in relation to ratings trends, “Clearly you are gaining in All India numbers, but 1 million plus numbers Times is gaining. Have asked for a deep dive on that.”
The chats show Dasgupta also shared granular data with Goswami while at the same time writing that BARC “doesn’t share this level of data with anyone else,” in response to which Goswami voiced his “appreciation”.
Dasgupta also asked Ramgarhia to “keep an eye” on viewership figures. “Ideally prune Chennai and make the gap small,” he said while referring to the gap between two channels (Republic and Times Now). Ramgarhia replied, “Chennai gap at 2+ (demographic) is low. 22+AB if we bridge the gap, Republic will fall to (number) two. Will check numbers and see what needs to be done.”
One chat between Dasgupta and Ramgarhia shows how policy was altered to help Republic TV. On May 17, 2017, Ramgarhia messaged Dasgupta, “Also changed the policy on the website stating 2-4 weeks – releasing data from Republic from 6 May onwards. So covered.” BARC India’s earlier policy was to put out news channel’s viewership after four weeks, which was changed to release Republic’s data.
He also asked Ramgarhia to inform Khanchadani about a drop in reach. “Tell Vikas they have no traction in Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta,” Dasgupta wrote in one of his messages. “Start messaging Vikas, if they lose Chennai, they will lose India since in the other markets, they are not doing well. They are super dependent on Chennai.”
In addition, he regularly shared queries from TRAI and other media pertaining to Republic TV and viewership with Goswami, seeking his inputs.
At the time when the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) was on a warpath with Republic TV, Dasgupta was helping Goswami with legal strategy and media management. The chats also show that before his exit from BARC, Dasgupta asked Goswami if he could help him get an “influential position” in the government.

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