Firebrand Indian television anchor Arnab Goswami knew of the Modi government’s plan to stage a strike in Pakistan days before the Feb 26, 2019, Balakot episode between the two countries, the evidence submitted by Mumbai police as part of an ongoing investigation on the manipulation of television ratings suggests, multiple Indian media outlets reported on Saturday.
The police investigation began in October last year after TV channels in the western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, were accused of rigging the rating system.
According to excerpts of the purported conversations published by scroll.in, Goswami texted Dasgupta on Feb 23, 2019, saying: “On another note, something big will happen.”
Mumbai Police have obtained a transcript of the conversation between Arnab Goswami and the CEO of a rating company. Conversations are said to be more than 1,000 pages. BARC CEO Pratho Dasgupta had asked Goswami to get him a job in India’s PM Office.
Mumbai police have stated that WhatsApp conversations show that the firebrand anchor and senior officer of India’s Republic TV, Arnab Goswami, had enjoyed a cozy relationship with the head of rating company Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Pratho Dasgupta, reports Indian publication The Hindu.
The publication said that Mumbai Police have mentioned the relationship in a supplementary charge sheet filed during an investigation into a rating tampering scandal involving a few news channels in India, including the hyper-nationalist Republic TV.
The publication reported that police have retrieved conversations that are more than 1,000 pages from Dasgupta’s phone. In the conversation, the BARC CEO was seen asking Goswami to reach out to the government on his behalf at multiple times. In a conversation on April 4, 2019, just days before the general elections, Dasgupta had asked the Republic TV anchor to stall India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority’s (TRAI) proposal to make the BARC’s viewing data public rather than the council just supplying it to channels.
Dasgupta had told Goswami that if the data was made public then multiple 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,” Dasgupta had told Goswami. In response to his fears, the anchor assured the BARC CEO that when the Narendra Modi-led government returns to power then the TRAI will become toothless.
The publication, quoting the conversations, said that Goswami had also asked Dasgupta to share with his points on how reforms were politically harmful to the government. “With channels getting blacked out, the impact of messaging on TV will reach lesser people and hence diluted impact,” Dasgupta said in the transcripts. Can you help by telling AS to tell TRAI to pipe down on BARC?” asked the BARC CEO. The publication said that the two had made multiple references to “AS”, with whom Goswami purportedly enjoyed a close relationship. It added that the initials were not disclosed in the transcript. Following the conversation, Goswami responded to the BARC CEO saying that “a strong message has been conveyed to TRAI. The Hindu said that this was not the only time that the BARC CEO had sought Goswami’s help against TRAI. During the conversation, Dasgupta had told the Republic TV multiple times that he was under pressure from “vested interests”. He also says he is under pressure from various channels on viewership data. At one point the BARC CEO had also approached Goswami to get him a job as “media advisor” in the Prime Minister’s Office. In other conversations, Goswami had complained to the BARC CEO over his channel not getting better ratings but he was assured by Dasgupta that necessary steps will be taken to “clean the data”.