There was an air of jubilation among India’s liberal circles, particularly mainstream media, who lost their heads in celebration as Arnab Goswami and the Republic Media Network were named by Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh yesterday during a live press conference, as alleged parties involved in a television rating points (TRP) manipulation racket. Republic TV, apart from two other Marathi channels – Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema were named by the Mumbai Police Commissioner.
Republic Media Network and its Managing Director cum Editor-in-Chief, Arnab Goswami almost instantly denied such allegations, referring to the accusations made by the Mumbai Police Commissioner as false, while also suggesting that they were a by-product of the network’s relentlessly aggressive coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, Palghar mob-lynching of Sadhus, and most recently, exposing of plots by his channel of a certain party’s plans to effectuate riots in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras. The senior journalist also announced that he would be suing Mumbai Police and its top cops for criminal defamation.
Last evening, during Arnab Goswami’s live debate, it was also unearthed that India Today, which is TV Today network’s English news offering was in fact the channel named at least six times in the FIR filed by Hansa Research Group Private Limited, the company responsible for installing and maintaining the Bar-O-Meters (BOM) of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). Subsequently, Relationship Manager of the company – Vishal Bhandari was arrested by Mumbai Police. During interrogation, Bhandari is said to have revealed that it was in fact India Today, and some other channel, who pushed him and offered money to households with the BOMs to keep their TV tuned to those particular channels in order to seamlessly boost their own ratings. Nowhere in the original FIR, which brought the entire case to the Mumbai Police’ knowledge, is the name of Republic Media Network and affiliated channels mentioned.
The celebrations of Republic TV’s rival channels were short-lived, as Arnab Goswami, as usual, took matters in his own hands, and in his first reaction to the alleged ‘TRP manipulation racket’, thrashed the Mumbai Police left, right and centre, indicating that Param Bir Singh was trying hard to please his ‘political masters’. Rival channels employed themselves on making Arnab Goswami the focal news point, to the extent where they even ended up devoting their primetime slots to the man and his network’s alleged TRP tampering racket.
Times Now, for instance, which was founded by Arnab Goswami, and turned into India’s former number 1 English news channel until 2016, which is the year when Goswami called it quits out of the Times Network, took to pontificating on how TRP tampering has always been a longstanding issue in Indian media, and was almost thankful that the ‘truth’ had now come out. Rahul Shivshankar, who is also referred to as a mini-Arnab of sorts, said that he was pained that the ‘truth’ of his former colleague was now out, adding that the truth shall prevail. On the Newshour, Navika Kumar, who replaced Arnab Goswami on the 9 pm slot in 2016, continued the channel’s tirade against her former boss and now Republic Media Network’s owner.
NDTV invited perhaps the biggest panel it has ever hosted to discuss the menace of TRP riggings. Jokes are doing the rounds on social media, saying that last evening’s panel size of NDTV was in fact larger than the quantum of viewers who watch the channel every week.
However, there is only one indisputable clown which has emerged out of the entire fiasco – India Today. Rahul Kanwal and Rajdeep Sardesai almost instantaneously broke into jubilation, as Param Bir Singh named Republic TV as an accused in the alleged racket which his force claims to have busted. Mind you, the Commissioner, for reasons best known to him, chose to not name India Today in the press conference, even while the channel is clearly mentioned in the original FIR. Arnab Goswami has, meanwhile, alleged that India Today reporters were stationed outside his house even before the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s press conference began. Rahul Kanwal, as Arnab’s arch-nemesis, seems to be convinced that the Mumbai Police completed an ‘elaborate investigation’ within 24 hours of the original FIR being filed, where Republic TV is not even mentioned, but India Today is.
In its utter desperation to hound Arnab Goswami, India Today also deployed its reporters outside his house, who tried to almost stop the senior journalist’s vehicle and get a sound byte. Not being given one, and having been restrained by the security personnel, the India Today reporter then threw a handsome tantrum on the street.
Needless to say, after 9 pm, India Today and its pompous editors who were celebrating looking at the reputational damage being caused to Republic TV by the Mumbai Police, were forced to hide their heads in shame, as Arnab Goswami took it upon himself to expose the grand conspiracy at play to defame his network. Arnab Goswami revealed how it was in fact India Today which was named in the FIR filed on behalf of BARC, and how, Republic found a mention in the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s press conference despite not being named in any such FIR. The editors of India Today were no where to be seen subsequent to such revelations, and preachers from other channels too were made to eat humble pie.
For India Today, the entire fiasco has been an unmitigated disaster, with the channel still on the backfoot, having to defend itself on social media by blocking those users who are questioning it. Interestingly, Arnab Goswami has also vowed to file criminal defamation cases against channels which peddled the Mumbai Police’s highly suspicious narrative of the already shoddy ‘racket’ which they claim to have ‘busted’.