Two brief messages in the purported WhatsApp chats add an uneasy chapter to a story of corruption in the Modi government.
In 2017, Republic TV and the Zee Media Network’s channels circumvented Prasar Bharati’s auction system to gain viewership on DD Free Dish.
Free Dish is a free-to-air DTH service provided by the Indian government. In 2017, it reached 22 million subscribers in the country, mostly in rural, Hindi-speaking regions. To be available on this platform for a limited period, broadcasters have to bid for a slot and pay a fee amounting to crores of rupees.
Republic TV and Zee Media did not pay this fee, thanks to help from Dish TV, a private DTH service then owned by Zee Media. The three companies violated norms and, as a result, cost the public exchequer more than Rs 52 crore.
Newslaundry had reported this story in detail in December 2020.
The purported WhatsApp chats between Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami and former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta from 2017 – made available by the Mumbai police in the TRP scam case – adds another chapter to this inglorious story.
The chats show that on July 7, 2017, a couple of weeks after Doordarshan wrote to the ministry of information and broadcasting about Republic TV’s involvement in the Free Dish case, Dasgupta told Goswami: “Apparently there is some complaint about Republic in ministry – it’s yet to be referred to us – one JS [Joint Secretary] told – but I think it will never come.”
“About the dish fta [free-to-air] thing,” Goswami admits. “Rathore told me and said he’s keeping it aside.”
Rathore likely refers to Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who was then the union minister of state for information and broadcasting. Separate discussions between Dasgupta and Goswami on the ministry and minister Smriti Irani show that the Republic TV anchor always referred to the minister as “Rathore”.
What did Goswami imply when he meant that “Rathore” had kept the complaint “aside”?
One, that the minister had purportedly tipped off Goswami that his channel’s games with the state-owned broadcaster had reached the ministry. Second, and most importantly, it strongly implies that the minister buried the complaint into oblivion. Four years later, there is little to suggest the Narendra Modi government acted against Republic TV and Zee Media for cheating the system to the tune of crores.
Newslaundry reached out to Rathore and the ministry of information and broadcasting with a set of questions about the WhatsApp chats. The story will be updated if we receive a response.
This is the second report in a series on the Whatsapp chats that purportedly show former BARC chief Partho Dasgupta's collusion with Republic TV head Arnab Goswami to manipulate TRPs, political lobbying and influence peddling, and more. Read the other reports in this series.