Ugly Nexus  

By Raj Rao

THE Mumbai Police have busted a TRP (Television Rating Points) racket. The racket involves manipulating television viewers so that they watch certain channels over others. This gives the channels a financial advantage as companies advertise their products widely on these channels, thinking it will enable them to reach a larger audience.

The notorious Republic TV is one of the national television channels allegedly involved in the scam. Investigations have revealed that the racket has fraudulently earned the channel over Rs 225 crore as advertising revenue. Mr. Arnab Goswami, the channel’s all-in-one, has of course denied this. But proof of the malpractice has been provided to the Mumbai Police by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).

The BARC has revealed that they installed barometers in certain households which monitored the time that the residents spent watching TV, and the channels that they saw. The owners of the households were instructed to tune in to Republic TV throughout the day, even if they were not interested in its programmes, and even if, as in some cases, they did not understand a word of English.  In return for the favour, they were given 60 inch television sets as gifts, and were also paid a monthly allowance of Rs 500.

On Thursday night, Arnab Goswami was seen on Republic TV lambasting and lashing out at the Mumbai Police Commissioner, Mr. Param Bir Singh, the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, and the NCP Chief, Mr. Sharad Pawar. He was so theatrical that he resembled an actor on stage performing a play directed by the redoubtable Alyque Padamsee.

Journalists have been arrested by the government since the times of the Emergency, and continue to be arrested to this day. Only three days ago, a journalist from Kerala was arrested in Hathras, UP, on the dubious charge of inciting a riot. These journalists, who are often denied bail, have no option but to stick it out in jail as undertrials and sometimes even as convicts. A revolutionary poet like Varavara Rao, whose poems I have co-translated from the Telugu, has been in jail without trial since the end of 2018 for attending a meeting in rural Pune to commemorate a war between the Dalits and the Peshwas that took place in the 19th century.

In such a scenario, how is a man like Arnab Goswami allowed to get away by publicly abusing the Police Commissioner, a senior bureaucrat of IPS rank, and the Chief Minister of the state, who is an elected representative of the people?

The answer is clear. Goswami has the backing of the BJP. This emboldens him.

Suddenly, everything begins to fall in place. We now realize why Republic TV was so keen on proving that actor Sushant Singh Rajput did not commit suicide in June this year, but was murdered, in spite of all evidence to the contrary put out by the Mumbai Police, the Cooper Hospital in Mumbai, and AIIMS in New Delhi.

The truth is that Arnab Goswami was insecure ever since the BJP lost power in Maharashtra, and a coalition government known as the Maha Vikas Aghadi, comprising the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress began to rule the state.

If Republic TV succeeded in proving that the Mumbai Police had botched up the investigation into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, it would possibly lead to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, and the BJP would regain power in Maharashtra. Needless to say, Arnab Goswami knew he had the backing of the BJP, the JDU of Nitish Kumar, and the Bihar Police (since Sushant Singh Rajput is from Bihar). To achieve their ends, they even made the bereaved father of Sushant Singh Rajput a scapegoat in their game plan.

How desperate the BJP is to regain power in Maharashtra can be gauged from the fact that they have sent the state’s former Chief Minister, Mr. Devendra Fadnavis, to Bihar to oversee the elections due there next month. They have roped in not just the Bihar Police, but also the Enforcement Directorate and the Narcotics Control Bureau to try and help them establish that Sushant Singh Rajput was a bechara who was duped and drugged by his Bombay-bred girl friend, Rhea Chakravarty. However, neither any money embezzlement on Rhea’s part, nor her being a drug peddler could be proved. In fact, earlier this week, the Bombay High Court ordered that she be released on bail after having spent a month in jail.

If the BJP was in power in Maharashtra, it is highly unlikely that Republic TV’s alleged TRP manipulations would have come to light. But now that they have come to light, the entire journalistic fraternity has come together to voice its displeasure over the kind of offensive journalism that Arnab Goswami practices, where those who disagree with him or the BJP are insulted, abused, shouted down, and their mikes are turned off.

  • Dr. R. Raj Rao is an internationally known Indian English novelist, poet and critic. He was Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of Pune in Maharashtra. He has also been a Visiting Professor at universities in Canada and Germany

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