Arnab Goswami Effect

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News channels lose more credibility  with Goswami’s WhatsApp messages

THE credibility of India’s news TV channels has suffered a severe damage owing the revelation of alleged fixing between the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) and Republic TV.  The Mumbai police have produced a mountain of WhatsApp messages exchanged between Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and former BARC CEO Patho Dasgupta that showed that the two were colluding to manipulate TRP to keep Republic TV near the top. WhatsApp messages are too private and secure to be written or overwritten by someone else.  Goswami and Dasgupta cannot claim they did not send those WhatsApp messages to each other. Their true and authentic words have been obtained from the WhatsApp system.

TRP (television rating point) is the basis on which a TV channel tries to attract viewers and advertisers. If you claim your TRP is highest or next to highest, you are definitely going to draw more viewers and more advertisers. What is proven by the alleged Goswami-Dasgupta conspiracy is that a channel can draw more viewers and advertisements by a false TRP. How many companies must have lost money in advertising on Republic TV merely on the basis of highest or near highest TRP! If a channel has an actually high TRP, a company advertising on it would get a larger public response. If a channel has an artificially high TRP, the response would be poor. If former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta was manipulating the TRP to favour Republic TV, he might have been doing it for other channels too. Goswami’s motivation could be presumed to be high revenue and high public opinion of Republic TV and high image as a journalist since he had left a big job with a big channel to start Republic TV. The real motivations of Dasgupta could be presumed to be greater revenue and power broking.     

After the revelations of the Goswami-Dasgupta nexus, viewers of news channels are going to be even more disappointed.  We cannot say they will be disillusioned with news channels, but they will certainly be judging their credibility very critically. Arnab Goswami is the type of journalists who swim and splash with the current and consider objectivity as a liability. In the media-view of the Goswamis, journalists with open mind end up riding a donkey to the destination of good life and journalists with closed mind a horse.  The trouble with the Goswamis is that they get thrown off their horse when the sun they were getting their light and heat from sets. Or where the sun cannot reach. Goswami’s WhatsApp messages clearly suggest that he enjoys the favours of and deep access to the high and mighty in the Modi government. It is these favours and contacts that Dasgupta wanted Goswami to capitalize on for the profits of both. Goswami must have been absolutely assured of no one daring to break through his WhatsApp account when he was the darling of the highest and the mightiest sun. But he had not calculated that the highest and mightiest sun does not reach Maharashtra. There, the government was of Maha Vikas Aghadi, and they were baying for his blood because he had been inflicting harm upon harm upon them through his channel.  

Even otherwise Goswami’s image as a journalist was poor. He had earned the nickname of ‘Noise’ because when he anchored debates he spoke more than the guests and he let those among guests speak more who supported his viewpoint and gave little time or shut out the guests who opposed his viewpoint and in some cases even asked them to leave the studio. The whole space on Goswami’s screen was divided between newsmakers and noisemakers, leaving little room for cool-headed, diving, enlightening, thought-provoking debate. Anyone who shouts draws public attention. Try shouting in an auditorium – heads will turn toward you. Hawkers shout to attract buyers. According to the same psychology, viewers turned to hear Arnab Goswami. As he drew crowds, other news anchors started imitating him. Now to hear Goswami, you do not have to go to his channel. Anyone who watches debates on BBC or CNN can see the difference. It will take a long time to de-Goswamify Indian news television. Perhaps the TRP conspiracy case is the beginning of it.