Ranjona Banerji: Emphatically, the old order changeth at Network 18

21 Aug,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


The old order changeth blah blah blah. And sometimes is it more than that? Is it Reliance establishing its firm imprint on Network 18? Rahul Joshi, editorial director of Economic Times, is set to take over as CEO of news and group editor-in-chief. Joshi has been editorial director of ET since 2006.


Furthermore, after the recent fracas at firstpost.com when an article critical of Union finance minister Arun Jaitley by the website’s very popular columnist R Jagannathan, also editor-in-chief of firstpost.com and Forbes India, was taken down, there are some changes here too. Lakshmi Choudhry had resigned as executive editor after the Jaitley critique was removed from the website. Now BV Rao has been appointed editor and Ajay Singh as executive editor to “assist” Jagannathan, whatever that means. Rao has been working with Reliance as news and communications director.


The wording is interesting here. Surely, any person junior to the editor would “assist” the editor by the very nature of hierarchy or position. Indeed, this applies to any organisation. So why specify it? Are more changes afoot? Certainly people have long expected a more hands on approach from Reliance at Network 18 and looks like they are getting it. Rahul Joshi however is a very welcome surprise, given his experience.


Stories doing the rounds say that the editorial staff at firstpost is very worried – naturally – after the Jaitley comment was removed. Caravan reports that the website has been given a list of top three leaders who cannot be criticised. Anyway you spin that it means a death knell for free comment. It will be fascinating to see what changes if any Joshi will make in both editorial policy and management control.


Business Standard has gone a step further, saying these moves represent Mukesh Ambani’s total takeover of Network 18. As everyone knew, Network 18 will create content for his Jio project. Also Jagannathan is expected to retire in a few months when he turns 60 and this will presumably allow Rao full control of firstpost and Forbes.


Already, firstpost.com’s first mover advantage is under threat from the clutch of news and views websites which have been launched since. Scroll, The wire, DailyO, Huffpo, Quint, Quartz, Catch News and forgive me if I have left anyone out, all offer a variety of information and opinions, often superior to print journalism or to rival it anyway. Rediff.com, the true first mover, continues to have a presence. So if firstpost is going to become an open government or management or party mouthpiece, then it has its work cut out for it. Because of course, there is another whole universe already in operation there from Niti Central to Swarajya and many more.


Interestingly though the news channels seem to continuing without that “star” (or wannabe star) presence that seems to be a must in Indian TV news. Perhaps those will be the next changes before us?


This looks like fast-moving and fast-growing story with all the attendant drama of an Ambani takeover, even if it has arrived a bit later than many expected.






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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Emphatically, the old order changeth at Network 18”

  1. ashok759 says:

    The product will stand or fall on the quality and credibility of its content. An owner’s deep pockets mean only that there is lots of blood to shed if readers / viewers fall out of love with it.

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