The Union government is struck by a crisis of credibility caused by one of the most controversial contemporary television anchors, Arnab Goswami — owner-editor of Republic TV. The transcripts of the purported WhatsApp chats between Goswami and the chief executive officer of Broadcast Audience Research Council, Partho Dasgupta, suggest a conspiracy to boost the viewership ratings of Republic TV at the cost of its rivals and competitors. Unlike hyperventilating news TV channels, the print media does not assume the roles of the investigator, prosecutor and the judge. Even while remaining firmly within the limits of freedom of speech and expression, and not violating anyone’s right to fair trial as directed by the Bombay High Court in its verdict in the case of the coverage of Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide by Republic TV and Times Now, it needs to be underscored that Goswami has to be treated as an accused in a serious case of fraud.
The Radia Tapes controversy had cost a lot of journalistic reputations; deservedly so. However, those tapes were never authenticated by an investigating agency or made part of a chargesheet unlike the Goswami WhatsApp chats. Worse, here the chats point towards the use of sensitive, highly classified military information about an impending air strike for commercial and pecuniary benefit. The collusion between Goswami and Dasgupta was intended to increase the Television Rating Points of Republic TV by gaming the entire audience research system for higher viewership figures, thereby gaining more advertisements and greater revenue for Goswami’s channel. And it is in the quest for commercial success and money that Goswami allegedly passed on a military secret to Dasgupta, who could have in turn used it for his own benefit.
These chats, if genuine, are an indictment of a pseudo-nationalist TV anchor; a toxic ecosystem of manic-patriotism that allows the monetisation of national grief; and fraudulent viewership or readership measuring mechanisms. A joint parliamentary committee probe is called for, but before that, the courts should restrain this accused from turning judge and jury in his own case by misusing his channel. Also, the government should act fast to retrieve its credibility.