The chargesheet had named five Republic employees, including Arnab Goswami, and two from Maha Movies channel. This was the third chargesheet in the case. (File photo)
A month before the Mumbai Police named Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami as an accused in the Television Rating Points (TRP) scam case, it had sought his response to 68 questions – ranging from what the police believe are incriminating WhatsApp chats to high ratings of his news channels, complaints made before Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and allegations of manipulation.
Goswami, through a written response to the questionnaire on May 24, has claimed that Republic Media has more than 1,100 employees and decisions regarding issues raised in the case are looked into by the distribution team with no involvement of the editorial team, of which he is the head.
The Mumbai Police, in its 1,912-page supplementary chargesheet filed on Tuesday, has annexed screenshots of WhatsApp chats of Republic TV employees where discussions on LCNs – same channel showing at two frequencies – and TRPs have taken place. The police has said that as the managing director of ARG Outliers Media Private Limited, Goswami’s approval was taken to conduct the alleged manipulation and make illegal payments for higher TRP.
The chargesheet had named five Republic employees, including Goswami, and two from Maha Movies channel. This was the third chargesheet in the case.
In the chargesheet, the police have alleged that there were three forms of manipulations, including dual LCN and manipulation of barometers installed in panel homes, to measure TRPs and fudging reports at Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) – the industry body that measures TRP.
On Republic showing on more than one channel, Goswami has said, “Issues concerning the placement of channels are looked into by the distribution team of ARG and the decision-making power on such issues lies with them. Neither I, nor anyone else from the editorial team is involved, leave alone instruct regarding the placement of our channels, which is handled by the competent team.”
On questions like illegal payments being made to direct to home operators and multiple system operators (cable service providers), Goswami recused himself saying that the matter was not within his domain and that his “dominant role” is to discharge editorial functions of ARG.
To many questions, he responded by saying that Republic had over 1,100 employees and he was not aware of all decisions being taken by other departments.
On WhatsApp groups of Republic employees discussing TRPs and dual LCNs, including in some where he is a member, Arnab said: “I am made part of various WhatsApp groups from time to time, relating to different functions of the company or even social groups (of school or college) but have no active involvement or participation in them. It is not possible for me to keep track of WhatsApp chats or follow each activity.” On multiple complaints made before TRAI by News Broadcasters Association against Republic, Goswami replied, “NBA is just a trade association, which regularly files complaints against those who are not its members.”
“There has been absolutely no TRP manipulation or malpractice of any kind by Republic Media Network,” he added.
Six questions were based on WhatsApp chats between Goswami and Partho Dasgupta – then BARC CEO and a co-accused in the case – where the Mumbai Police have claimed that confidential information was shared.
Goswami has claimed that the chats have been “selectively reproduced” out of context to “create prejudice, colour the investigation” and discredit him. He also said that the chats have no admissibility as evidence. The police have claimed that Goswami has “accepted” the chats.
Goswami has claimed that he knew Dasgupta since he was also with Times Now. The police had alleged that Dasgupta, who headed BARC, had favoured Republic by fudging data so that the channel would appear to be having the highest TRPs when it was actually not the case. The police have also claimed that jewellery and expensive articles seized from Dasgupta were bought through money paid by Goswami for the alleged favours.
On how Republic had high TRPs right from the time it launched, Goswami said that it was “due to its quality of editorial content.” On complaints made by Times Now to BARC about Republic using underhand ways to increase its vieweship, Goswami said that the channel was acting out of “professional rivalry” and that Republic had on various occasions complained against Times Now.