TRP scam: Advocates call Arnab and Dasgupta’s chat a ‘banter’

On Monday 22 March, WhatsApp chats between Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV and Partho Dasgupta, the former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO, a senior lawyer representing ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd Ashok Mundaragi told the Bombay High Court. “Bankers” were between two close friends “, LiveLaw reported.

Republic TV is run by ARG Outlayer Media Private Limited. A division bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Manish Pitle on Monday heard a petition filed by the media company to dismiss the Mumbai Police FIR and the chargesheet filed in the TRP manipulation case.

Mundargi alleged that the investigation was aimed at arresting Goswami and that once it was done, the investigation would be closed.

What is TRP scam?
Earlier in October 2020, the Mumbai Police claimed to have exposed a ‘scam TRP scam’, under which television rating points (TRPs) were allegedly manipulated. The then Mumbai Police Commissioner, Param Bir Singh said that the ratings, which measure television ratings in India, were being manipulated by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).

The police named Republic TV and two other Marathi channels that were allegedly involved in the practice.

He further said that sample houses, where bar-o-meters were installed to monitor ratings, paid for watching some TV channels to increase the TRP. The amount paid ranged between Rs 400 and Rs 500 per month per household.

Stating that TRP was used by the channels to get higher advertising revenue, the police said that the money made from such ‘manipulation’ would be seen as “proceeds of crime”.

500 pages of whatsapp conversation:
Around 500 pages of WhatsApp conversation between Goswami and Dasgupta were removed in the chargesheet filed in the fake TRP scam case.

Dasgupta was arrested in December 2020 in the case. During that period, his phone was confiscated. The chats recovered from his phone were eventually leaked on social media and news channels. Subsequently, Dasgupta was granted bail by the Bombay High Court on Tuesday 2 March 2020 on a bond of Rs 6 lakh.

In the alleged conversation, Goswami complained about the TRP ranking of his rivals, while Dasgupta expressed his displeasure about the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and requested him to help him get an advisory position with the Prime Minister’s Office .

The chat includes several alleged conversations between Goswami and Dasgupta about various incidents (and coverage of the Republic), including the Pulwama attack and the Balakot airstrikes in February 2019, hinting that national-level confidential knowledge is being republished. The editor of the TV is being informed — in the main.

Referring to the conversation that took place between Dasgupta and Goswami, Mundaragi replied that the chat was “out of context” by the Mumbai police to make the case. He further stated that there was not a single message discussing TRP manipulation. “They were discussing topics that two friends can usually discuss,” he said.

The court asked the police to set a time limit to complete the investigation. Seeking the response of the police, the next hearing will be on Wednesday 24 March.