Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami paid “lakhs” to senior officials of TV ratings agency BARC, including former CEO Partho Dasgupta, to manipulate the channel’s TRP (television rating point), Mumbai Police alleged in a remand note submitted to a magistrate’s court on Monday.
The police also alleged that Mr Dasgupta – who was arrested last week – was the “mastermind” and fudged viewership numbers and data for financial gain. The police made the claims while requesting further custody of the former CEO in order to ascertain if more such payments were made.
The note alleged Mr Goswami paid Mr Dasgupta and another senior BARC official – former COO Romil Ramgarhia, who is accused of “providing secret and confidential information to certain channels” – to manipulate the TRP of Republic TV’s English and Hindi channels.
“Dasgupta misused his official position and manipulated TRP of specific news channels broadcast by ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, such as Republic Bharat and Republic TV. Dasgupta, while serving as CEO of BARC, got involved in the conspiracy along with Arnab Goswami and others,” Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch said in its remand note, according to news agency PTI.
The note alleged Mr Goswami had given Mr Dasgupta money “from time to time”, and that the former CEO, who was in that position from June 2013 to November 2019, used this money to buy expensive items that were seized from his residence in Raigad when he was arrested.
Further investigations were ongoing the police said, as they got custody of Mr Dasgupta, the fifteenth person to be arrested in this case, till Wednesday.
Earlier this month Vikas Khanchandani, the CEO of ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd (which owns the Republic Media network) was also arrested. He was later granted bail. Republic TV’s Head of Distribution, Ghanshyam Singh, was arrested last month.
Mr Goswami, who was arrested from his Mumbai home last month in a separate case and given bail last month, is also among those named in a charge sheet filed by Mumbai Police.
Republic TV, which is one of three channels being investigated, has denied allegations and accused Mumbai Police of a vendetta because it questioned investigations into actor Sushant Rajput’s death.
The case was filed in October after Nitin Deokar, an official of Hansa Research – an agency that placed metres that record viewership data in sample households – alleged the process was manipulated.
On investigation Mumbai Police said Republic TV – which claims the highest ratings – was tweaking ratings to get high advertising rates by bribing the households in which metres were installed. The police said they were being paid ₹ 400 to ₹ 500 per month to keep certain channels on.
TRP – measured by recording viewership data in sample households – is crucial for attracting advertisers and improving revenues at TV channels.