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Commentary: Was Partho Dasgupta being played by Arnab Goswami?

The reduced frequency of chats between the two after Dasgupta resigned as BARC India CEO hints so

(L) Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta (R)

The alleged WhatsApp chats between Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, and Vikas Khanchandani and Romil Ramgarhia, submitted as proof by Mumbai Police in its chargesheet in the alleged TRP scam case, reveal that the rot was deeper than what anyone could have imagined at the beginning.

Some are drawing parallel to the infamous 1992 Indian securities scam involving stockbroker Harshad Mehta, while many are calling it bigger than Radiagate because of Goswami’s alleged bragging about his proximity to the power corridors.

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What the alleged WhatsApp chats reveal is that Goswami used Dasgupta to game the system and kill competition through illegal means—the use of dual LCN and landing page.

In one chat, Goswami informed Dasgupta on July 7, 2017: Got ICNCL Landing (Referring to Kolkata market)

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On August 3, 2017, Goswami wrote: Kolkata there is now clear proof they are tampering. Our reach is lower than them when they have no landing and we have ICNCL which is the biggest players. This is the market where NewsX person has given home data to Times Now local person Rituraj.

Crackdown on these cheats, Goswami wrote.

To which Dasgupta replied: Data is cleaned.

Two months later, on October 4, 2017, Dasgupta confirmed with Goswami if Republic was still there on landing pages in Bengal.

Daspupta: Your Bengal Landing continues?

Goswami: Yes

Dasgupta: Times Now?

Goswami: Sir they have reduced on Times Now

Dasgupta: Ok

The purported chats between Goswami and Dasgupta establish that Republic TV was doing extensive landing while keeping the then BARC India dispensation informed about it, but the viewership numbers of others were reduced on Goswami’s instructions.

Dasgupta had always maintained in public that the landing issue was being handled by the outlier exclusion policy but the purported chats make it clear that Republic TV may have been kept out of it. Goswami shared an all-important news broadcast list of Republic with Dasgupta so that Republic’s numbers could be justified week by week.

As a part of the outlier policy, BARC can exclude any sudden viewership spike, if not backed by special programming, at the time of data calculation.

BARC allowed Goswami to use landing pages, among other practices, to spike Republic Bharat’s viewership too.

When News18 India stood No. 2 in July 2019, Goswami wrote, “Don’t let TV18 win like this.”

The chats suggest there was a case of quid pro quo as Dasgupta was seen pushing Goswami to help him get a free hand in running BARC India, which included removal of Punit Goenka as BARC India Chairman. However, though Goswami assured Dasgupta that he would take the matter to the ministry level, nothing was done eventually.

The reduced frequency of chats between the two after Dasgupta resigned as BARC CEO hints that he was being played by Goswami till the time he was at the council. Once Dasgupta was out, Goswami responded to his texts infrequently—at times even taking four days to respond.

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