Ranjona Banerji: Will Arnab Goswami’s ‘Republic’ really be “independent”?

27 Jan,2017

By Ranjona Banerji

 

So BarkhaDutt finally says goodbye to NDTV and where is ArnabGoswami’s Republic of I am the Nation?

The NDTV website has posted a very generous goodbye to a journalist who has been with them from the beginning and in several ways defined and set the standard for television journalism in India. It is not necessary to always agree with Dutt’s style or choices to appreciate and acknowledge her impact on Indian journalism, especially television.

Dutt apparently has many plans and we shall see how that develops.

http://www.ndtv.com/communication/ndtv-statement-on-barkha-dutt-1649025

And so we reach the champion of “independent media”, free of all corporate control, creating a “global” media platform, breaking the terrible hegemony of the BBC and CNN.

Grand as all this sounds, the truth is that Goswami’s new venture is partly funded by Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who has been a BJP-supported Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and by TV Mohandas Pai, ex-Infosys and current NarendraModi cheerleader on national TV. Therefore, the term “independent media” is to be taken with a several barrels of salt. Goswami’s diatribes when he was with Times Now often focused on evil liberals who were pro-Pakistan – often his main target was BarkhaDutt – and he also disliked Delhi-based journalists and various other categories who were not him.

One cannot point fingers here since I also have my prejudices – but these are mainly against TV anchors who sing to His Master’s Voice regardless of the evidence and all journalistic ethics, and that includes Goswami and sometimes Dutt.

However, to pretend to be “independent” when you are in fact fooling nobody may well be foolish in the long run. I emphasise long run because as we can see happening everywhere, the short-term at the moment is rife with incompetents masquerading as messiahs, whether in the media or in public life.

This insistence on a new “independent” media also suggests that all was not well at all in Goswami’s last days at Times Now. This is in spite of the Times of India’s remarkable “we are a federal structure” defence (last February), of Goswami’s constant rants and tirades which directly contradicted the stand taken by the group’s newspapers.

Goswami’s venture is to be called “Republic” and here he has found an unlikely opponent – the BJP’s SubramaniamSwamy, one of India’s most litigious politicians. Swamy has written to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry pointing out that the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1950 disallows the use of the word “Republic” for anything professional and commercial. He has threatened legal action if nothing is done about it.

As of now, according to a Business Standard article, the details of when and how this “independent” media platform will be operational are vague.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/arnab-s-republic-hints-at-mainstreaming-right-wing-opinion-as-a-business-117012600235_1.html

For Goswami’s many fans, one can only hope that this will not take too long, since both momentum and public memory are tricky things.

 

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Meanwhile, it is heartening to see NDTV and NidhiRazdan taking up the cause of social activists and journalists who are being hounded in Chhatisgarh by the police and the government. It was not heartening to see India Today TV anchors almost wishing for a terrorist attack on Republic Day. It was heartening to hear the usual anodyne, cliché-filled commentary on Republic Day. It was not heartening to hear political parties using the media to try and elliptically defend the sexist comments made by Sharad Yadav and Vinay Katiyar.

 

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And most of all, it is not heartening to see that television news has practically forgotten that demonetisation is still creating havoc in people’s lives. It is heartening to see that the print and web media are still working on this.

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