The morning had many an NDTV fan thunderstruck after the news of SpiceJet’s Ajay Jain buying majority share in the channel broke out, courtesy an Indian Express report. To the relief of many, the channels representatives refuted the claim, saying ‘not even a single sentence of these reports is true.’
And why we’re so skeptical about this entire saga is because Ajay Jain is the gentleman who was one of the brains behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s media strategy ahead of the 2014 general assembly elections. Some insiders also believe that Jain led the brainstorming session that resulted in the coining of the phrase ‘Ab ki baar/ Modi sarkaar.’
Imagine one of the most left-leaning channels in the country being usurped by this ideology, that too in the times of a hysterical (for the lack of a better word) pro-BJP sentiment on Indian TV news channels! It would be definitely spell the beginning of an end.
If NDTV is at one end of the left-centre-right spectrum, then the noise led by Arnab Goswami‘s Republic TV has to be the other extreme. For crying out loud, the man resorts to questioning JNU students in the times of national emergencies.
The coverage of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder by the channel was shocking to say the least. It wasn’t surprising when former JNU student leader Shehla Rashid called out a channel representative during one of the protests at the Delhi Press Club for covering up the assassination.
She pointed out how the channel is being funded by NDA MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Mohandas Pai, a BJP sympathiser from Bangalore.
In fact, a journalist Sumana Nandy, says she feels ashamed of her association with Arnab Goswami’s channel. She also declared that she will never put Republic TV as one of her former employers on her CV and on social media. “I regret my association with this rogue organisation,” she said in a Facebook post after quitting from the organisation. You won’t hear that about NDTV.
In this day and age of the Arnab brand of journalism, patriotism has become a fashionable escape word; much against the ideological standpoints of the likes of NDTV journalist Ravish Kumar. The latter is neutral, soft-spoken, rational, logical, humble and a good listener. None of those words can be used in the same sentence as Arnab Goswami.
We’re not trying to paint a sparkling clean image of NDTV here. They’ve had their share of run-ins with the law and the government and controversies over many of their stands as well. But in a country that ranks below Pakistan and Bangladesh when it comes to freedom of press, expecting 100 percent transparency would be asking for too much.
Then there’s also the entire TRAI price capping issue, which implies that the general entertainment channel could be re-running old soaps (cost of content: zero) while news channel would be required to constantly generate fresh content. Even so, the former is allowed to charge advertisers more than double what the latter is able to.
Besides a general entertainment channel is always likely to get more subscribers. So it is a double hit for anybody seeking to build a serious news channel. That’s why many TV channels go down the reality TV path, as pointed out by Ashok Malik in his column.
Under these circumstances, the saffronisation of NDTV could be the final nail in the coffin for TV journalism in the country. We’re breathing sighs of relief till the time that doesn’t happen.
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