In a statement to Mumbai Police, former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, Partho Dasgupta, has claimed he received US$12,000 from Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for two separate holidays and a total of Rs 40 lakh over three years for manipulating ratings in favour of his news channel.
The hand-written statement is part of a supplementary charge sheet filed in the ongoing TRP scam case, The Indian Express reported.
The 3,600-page supplementary charge sheet, filed by Mumbai Police on January 11, includes a BARC forensic audit report, WhatsApp chats allegedly between Dasgupta and Goswami, and statements of at least 59 people.
The audit report names several news channels, including Republic, Times Now and Aaj Tak, and lists examples of alleged manipulation of ratings for channels by BARC's top executives.
The supplementary charge sheet was filed against Dasgupta, former BARC COO Romil Ramgarhia and Republic Media Network CEO Vikas Khanchandani.
Dasgupta's statement reads: "I have known Arnab Goswami since 2004. We used to work together in Times Now. I joined BARC as CEO in 2013. Arnab Goswami launched Republic in 2017. Even before launching Republic TV he would talk to me about plans for the launch and indirectly hint at helping him to get good ratings to his channel. Goswami knew very well that I know how the TRP system works. He also alluded to helping me out in the future."
The statement further read: "I worked with my team to ensure manipulation of TRP ratings that made Republic TV get the number 1 rating. This would have continued from 2017 to 2019. Towards this, in 2017 Arnab Goswami had personally met me at St Regis hotel, Lower Parel and given me 6000 dollars cash for my France and Switzerland family trip…also in 2019 Arnab Goswami had personally met me at St Regis and given me 6000 dollars for my Sweden and Denmark family trip. Also in 2017, Goswami had personally met me at ITC Parel hotel and given me Rs 20 lakh cash… also in 2018 and 2019… Goswami met me at ITC hotel Parel and gave me Rs 10 lakhs each time…"
The charge sheet also includes BARC's audit report from July 24, 2020, which mentions that evidence "indicated favouritism shown to few channels" and "in some cases, we suspect that the ratings were pre-decided".
For instance, the report also mentions about alleged suppression of viewership for Times Now to increase Republic's weekly rankings.
The practice of placing a channel on the "landing page" was prohibited by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. But that direction was set aside by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, and the matter is now in Supreme Court.
The audit report by Acquisory Risk Consulting states that six top executives of BARC at the time were involved in "manipulation of ratings and violation of the code of ethics" between 2018 and 2019.
In October 2019, Dasgupta was replaced by Sunil Lulla as CEO. The supplementary charge sheet includes a statement by a BARC official claiming that in "February 2020, Sunil Lulla told me that there were allegations of TRP rating manipulation from the media industry" against Dasgupta and others.
The audit report was given to Mumbai Police in December, two months after it registered an FIR in the TRP case.
Some of the instances cited in the report highlight rigged ratings that resulted in Republic TV being the top channel in English news from 2017.
On June 18, 2017, the report states, Mehta wrote to Ramgarhia: "As required, Times Now numbers are changed, while Republic is kept the same". According to the report, "this is pointing that the senior management wanted Republic TV to be number 1, and the team was working to achieve this objective".
The charge sheet also includes statements by cable operators to explain that they were asked to show Republic on two channels to increase its TRP in exchange for money.
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