The Republic Media Network, caught in a storm after the Mumbai police released apparent evidence of its collusion in manipulating TV ratings, has come out screaming against “commercial, political, and personal interests” that are plotting to take it down.
As to who these plotters are, the network thunders , “The evil designs and deep conspiracy between the Congress party, sections of the media, and the Pakistan government will be exposed thoroughly.”
By “sections of the media” the network means its rival, Times Now, and “a Hindi news channel”, as the statement goes on to explain.
Times Now has led the charge by rival news channels against Republic after the Mumbai police released purported Whatsapp chats between showing that they colluded to rig TRPs.
Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic, is also with Dasgupta, former CEO of BARC, the industry body tasked with measuring TRPs, is currently in jail, having been arrested in
Referring to the chats released by the police, Republic claims – falsely as – that they contain no evidence of any wrongdoing. “The ridiculous claims of bribes being paid are not supported by even a single sentence in the purported Whatsapp chats,” the statement states. “Hence, these chats prove the Mumbai police and its partners in the media are completely wrong.”
However to pin guilt on Republic, the statement adds, Times Now has tried to attribute statements by a third party to Goswami. “The network believes there’s a commercial conspiracy behind this and intends to take the strongest legal action against these ‘journalists’, who will be made responsible for every word and every falsehood they have uttered,” it says.
In fact, Republic alleges, the purported chats show that it was Times Now and other channels that manipulated TRPs by misusing the landing page, which means the channel that shows up when you turn on the TV.
If anything, it declares, Republic is a “victim” of TRP manipulation by its rivals. “While Republic’s ratings were also impacted by implementation of the Outlier Policy and our numbers were also brought down, Times Now’s numbers fell by a greater margin because their rampant use of landing pages was caught by the computerised algorithmic system of BARC which was launched way back in 2015 even before Republic TV was launched,” the statement claims.
Claiming that Times Now is suppressing the fact that the isn’t a Republic creation, Goswami’s network makes three demands of the rival channel. “Times Now should publicly declare how much money they spent in the years 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 on landing pages; Times Now must publicly state whether these landing pages were caught by the Outlier Policy of BARC; whether it is true or not that BARC itself appointed a two-member oversight committee which in October 2019 concluded that…there is no manual intervention in the process for treating outliers and the entire process is driven by robust algorithms and rules which makes the process unbiased.”
Similarly, “a top Hindi news channel” has been found guilty of “prefixing” TRPs by colluding with some BARC officials to manipulate its way to the top of the ratings charts. The Hindi channel, Republic alleges, is part of the “Lutyens’ industry cartel along with Times Now and has also been found guilty by BARC itself. “Why is Times Now not questioning this?” it asks.
On the accusation that Goswami knew in advance about the 2019 Balakot air strike and shared this secret with Dasgupta, Republic points out that Times Now hasn’t disclosed that they themselves published articles on the possibility of India launching strikes in Pakistan after the Pulwama attack.
“It is therefore clear that Times Now has only acted with malice, in breach of journalistic ethics, and in contravention to all due expectations from a media house, with the sole motive to prejudice the minds of Republic TV's viewers and the public at large, to settle a personal score, commercial gain, and vengeance.”
In light of this, Republic calls upon the Competition Commission of India to investigate “collusion and cartelisation” in the news industry.
Newslaundry contacted Times Now for a comment on Republic’s allegations, but without success.
In its on Friday, the Times Network said it was mulling legal action against BARC for its “unacceptable and unpardonable” failure to act on complaints of TRP manipulation to favour Republic TV. The TRP manipulation, the network added, caused it “huge financial losses and irreparable damage to reputation”.