TRP Wars Signal the End of News. We’ll Now Have to Watch Anchors Take Potshots at Each Other

Social Commentary

TRP Wars Signal the End of News. We’ll Now Have to Watch Anchors Take Potshots at Each Other

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

After spending months focusing their attention on Rhea Chakraborty, and the thousands of fake claims raised on social media regarding her “involvement” in Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, the nation’s top TV channels have now decided to turn on one another.

Over the last two days, a controversy has erupted, as the Mumbai Police announced that they were investigating a few channels, including Republic TV, for manipulating TRPs. Republic TV, helmed by anchor Arnab Goswami, soon received a taste of its own medicine, as a number of his peers chased the story.

India Today anchor Rahul Kanwal was one of the first to lead the charge, putting out both statements on his channel and on Twitter about the alleged TRP scam. Its social media handles ran the hashtag “RepublicCheatsBharat”, while the channel flashed headlines like “Cash for News TRP scandal” and “Republic Rigged Ratings”, ThePrint reported.

India Today’s sister channel, Aaj Tak, went for the more straightforward, “Republic ki Chori Pakdi Gayi”.

One of India Today’s reporters even went on to gain internet notoriety, after a video emerged of him crowding around Arnab Goswami’s car demanding answers, only to be restrained by a security guard. Goswami, whose own reporters are often the subject of parody videos on the internet, is seen smiling from his car and flashing a peace/victory sign.

ABP news, meanwhile, according to a report in The Quint, said the apparent scandal had given news channels and journalists a bad name. In its show, headlined, “Republic TV ki TRP saazish ki pol khuli”, anchor Rubika Liyaquat said Republic TV had sidelined every principle of journalism, and called its star anchor a “villain”.

Goswami responded to the allegations by saying only 2-3 channels were “instigating” the backlash, and that he would file criminal defamation charges against those “participating in this lie”. He also called out the Mumbai police commissioner on air, asserting that he comes from a family of Army personnel and hence “knows how to fight”.

The controversy began after Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh announced on Thursday that his department was investigating allegations that Republic TV and two other channels had “fixed” television ratings to gain more advertisement revenue. The issue has only gotten murkier since.

But the fight between these news channels has been ongoing since much before Thursday. Recently, after Arnab Goswami had called out India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai for going soft on Rhea Chakraborty during an interview, Rahul Kanwal hit back at Republic TV for not being able to get an interview in the first place, and called Goswami “Goebbels”, a reference to Adolf Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels.

Sardesai, meanwhile, said on his show that Goswami “runs a banana republic channel”.

It’s not often that journalists turn into the subject of news, but as the investigation gains momentum, and old rivalries come out in the open, it seems unlikely that the personal barbs will stop any time soon.