WhatsApp transcripts reveal BARC chief’s links with Arnab

Attempts to subvert TRAI rules exposed in Mumbai Police’s chargesheet in TRP tampering scam

The supplementary chargesheet filed by Mumbai Police in investigations into TRP tampering by a few news channels, including Republic TV, the WhatsApp conversations between Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami and recently arrested former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO Pratho Dasgupta reveals a cozy relationship.

The transcript of the WhatsApp messages intercepted via Mr. Dasgupta’s phone that runs into more than 1,000 pages, shows many instances of him asking Mr Goswami to reach out to the government on his behalf.

In one such instance, on April 4, 2019, just days before the general elections, Mr. Dasgupta asked Mr. Goswami to stall the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI)’s proposal to make the BARC’s viewing data public instead of just supplying it to the channels. Mr. Dasgupta tells Mr Goswami that if the data is made public, many channels could be blacked out by Multi System Operators (MSOs) and Local Cable Operators (LCOs).

“With public data MSOs and LCOs will push you guys for more carriage,” Mr. Dasgupta tells Mr Goswami.

At this, Mr Goswami assures him that when the BJP government returns, the TRAI won’t have teeth. He also asked Mr Dasgupta to send him points on how these reforms could politically hurt the government.

“With channels getting blacked out, impact of messaging on TV will reach lesser people and hence diluted impact,” Mr Dasgupta replied as per the transcript. Mr Dasgupta further added “Can you help by telling AS to tell TRAI to pipe down on BARC?”.

The reference to “AS” is also made repeatedly in the transcript, with Mr Goswami claiming to have a close relationship with him. The initials have not been spelt at any place in the transcript.

Two days later, Mr Goswami responds that, “a strong message has been conveyed to TRAI.”

This is not the only instance of Mr. Dasgupta seeking Mr. Goswami’s help against TRAI.

Mr. Dasgupta also at many places has complained about being under pressure from “vested interests”. He also says he is under pressure from various channels on viewership data. At one point he even asks Mr. Goswami to get him a job as “media advisor” in the Prime Minister’s Office.

There are also many instances in the transcripts that show Mr. Goswami boasting about his proximity to the “PMO” and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting; he details his visits to Delhi to meet various ministers. There is another instance where he says that “all the ministers are with us”.

In other conversations, Mr. Goswami also complains about other news channels getting better ratings than his (Republic TV) and Mr. Dasgupta assures him that necessary steps will be taken to “clean the data”.

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