The right-wing uber-nationalist Indian TV host Arnab Goswami conspired to obstruct the functioning of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the supplementary charge-sheet filed by the Mumbai Police reveals. 

The supplementary charge-sheet was filed as part of the investigations regarding the case of tampering with the Target Rating Point (TRP) by Indian channels, including Mr Goswami’s Republic TV. The Mumbai Police gained access to Mr Goswami’s WhatsApp conversations with recently arrested former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO Partho Dasgupta.

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, reported Indian newspaper The Hindu. 

On April 4, 2019, just days before the Indian general elections, Mr Dasgupta wanted 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 informed 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. Mr Goswami assured him that when the BJP government returns, the regulatory authority (TRAI) would not have much power. He also asked Mr Dasgupta to send him points on how these reforms could politically hurt the BJP government.

“With channels getting blacked out, the 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?”.

References to the unidentified “AS” are made repeatedly in the transcript, with Mr Goswami claiming to have a close relationship with him. Mr Goswami later responded, “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 repeatedly complained about pressure from “vested interests”, saying he is under pressure from various channels on viewership data. Furthermore, at one point he even asks Mr Goswami to get him a job as “media advisor” in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The transcript reveals Mr Goswami boasting about his close relationship with the “PMO” and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting; he details his visits to Delhi to meet various ministers saying that “all the ministers are with us”.

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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