Should your Heart Bleed for Partho?

18 Jan,2021

Screenshot of the social media posts by Partho Dasgupta's daughter

Screenshot of the social media posts by Partho Dasgupta’s daughter

 

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

On the morning of Saturday, January 16, I had mixed emotions. My eyes were hurting having gone through 250-odd pages of the Whatsapp transcripts that were part of the police chargesheet on what is loosely being called the TRP scam.

 

Someone had told me that there a few references to me by name, so couldn’t not check. And then when a friend posted a NewsLaundry story on a group, I responded:  “But you need to read the entire conversation to get the context. There’s some stuff that’s not right, but I wasn’t really surprised with the conversation. Partho and Arnab were very good friends much before he started Republic.”

 

Another friend said: “After going through the entire media report, I feel, he was strategising with the relevant ministry or important external stakeholders like BARC to get ahead  with his competition. These kind of lobbying strategies with key opinion leaders are done by almost by all companies to increase their market share. Not sure what’s illegal in this? May be someone can throw some light from legal angle.”

 

A leading journalist and news television anchor-producer working with a news channel, who is also on the group, was upset. She said: “I am amazed at your willingness to accept such blatant unethical and illegal behaviour.”

 

To my response to the second friend’s response (“Yeah, except that Partho Dasgupta was CEO of BARC which is the measurement body. So thanks to his proximity with Partho, Arnab had amazing advice in the early days of Republic.”), the journalist-producer said: “It’s not just advice , come on, time to call a spade a spade… We finally have proof and we don’t want to accept it. The question is now that the can of worms is open can the industry go back to saying yeah it’s ok everyone does it.”

 

Another industry biggie, summing up the argument on the issue added: “Unfortunate reality is ethics are guillotined by expediency…….and the intellegensia prevaricates… if we cant stand up for something, we will fall for everything. Amen”

 

Indeed.

 

Upset that my name also featured in the alleged conversation – nothing majorly negative about it, but I wasn’t too pleased with the references to me. Or to MxM. There were clear attempts to humour me, and use the website for the benefit of Republic.

 

But at around noon, I read this post by Dasgupta’s daughter, a student of law, perhaps not even in her 20s. The age is irrelevant, it was a pleas by a daughter in distress. Making a fervent plea to the powers that be.

 

I recommended speaking to a few media gods. I also spoke with someone at India Today and with a former employer who has deep connects with the ruling dispensation in Maharashtra.

 

Thankfully, the newspapers report that Dasgupta is stable. I sincerely hope he is fighting fit, again. For himself, his family, and for the sake of the industry.

 

Should your heart bleed for Partho? Yes, it should. We want him to get better, go through the legal process and tell us exactly what happened. He owes it to us and to the rest of the industry. And for the future of television audience measurement.

 

And if he is indeed the kingpin of the ongoing TRP scam, he should be punished. If he is being implicated falsely, the person or persons deserve to be punished. If it’s somewhere in between, then too, the law must allow to take its logical and speedy course.

 

What’s my view: I don’t think Partho was the mastermind of the ‘TRP scam’. But, yes, the conversation – if true – does indicate that he’s indulged in a lot of loose conversation. It also gives insights into the chatter that existed amongst the top execs in the economy.

 

What people need to remember is that the output of BARC has huge impact on the health of the industry and its people. Loss of ratings has led to a loss of business, jobs and rise of blood pressure and sugar levels for thousands of people in the past.

 

We can’t afford to have anyone game the system. Whosoever It May Be.

[an earlier version of this had Heard in the headline instead of Heart 🙁 ]

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