NewsWar2017 Round#1: ‘David’ Arnab Goswami takes on ‘Goliath’ Times Now, Newshour-ishtyle!

23 Mar,2017

 

By A Correspondent

It was mixed set of emotions for the folks at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Ballroom 1 and 2 at the venue of the 18th edition of FICCI-Frames was packed to the aisles. There was some place to stand, but just about. As almost everyone gravitated towards this hall, the other venues weren’t as packed at sessions being held simultaneously or immediately after this one.

Around four months after having exited primetime news on television in the country, ArnabGoswami is still a star. And as much of a crowdpuller as a Bollywood or sports biggie.

And on Wednesday noon, Goswami thundered. Like he’s known for. Theatrics that the nation loves him for. Except this time around, he appeared to have a lot more people rooting for him. For, Goswami has turned entrepreneur.

In a country which loves to champion the underdog, see a chaiwallah turn into Prime Minister, a modest investor outpace some of the biggest, the media and entertainment fraternity in attendance were happy to see Goswami evangelising his craft.

Interestingly, it was also the day, when Goswami’s former employer, fired its first salvo in its #AttackArnab offensive. The hashtagging is our doing, in Newshour-ishtyle. So Magicbricks Now which seemed to be going nowhere in revenues and ratings, has been dumped and rechristened Metro Now. For a while, the real estate channel has been been airing metro-centric news, and talking heads-led nightly debates.

So let’s get back to what Goswami said, around a month before unveiling his all-new news channel-led platform: Republic. By hiring former armyman Major Gaurav Arya, he has clearly indicated that he will continue his ‘My heart bleeds for India’ offensive every evening.

Speaking at the FICCI-Frames 2017, Arnab thundered: “Those who will understand the hidden script – because I don’t mince my words- will understand what I am saying today: This is a David Vs Goliath fight,” he said. And then paused and smiled at the audience before continuing.

“And I stand here before you proudly to say Goliath has tried to crush me and already failed. Because you can’t crush a thought. David thought on his feet, Goliath did not. David had the speed and David out-thought Goliath. I want to tell Goliath today: Come, out-think me, if you can,” he added.

“I have with me a bunch of Davids. Davids have emerged on their own. And they want to shackle the Davids. Because a bunch of Davids free is a threat to the Goliath. Our bunch of Davids will make old monopolies fall once again, as they have in the past,” he declared.

“Republic will ensure that new ones will come and these new ones – these new guys will be the ones that show the world from right here in India that Content is King, not Money. Money will fail and people will watch the screens that they believe in and not the screens that sell to them,” he pledged and promised that “putting the focus back on each one of you is my only determination.”

And then he asked: “Which side would you be on? With David or with Goliath?”

It may be argued that the editor-anchor-and-now-entrepreneur could well be talking about Goliaths like the AroonPuriemanaged-owned India Today and MukeshAmbani/Reliance Industry-run CNN-IBN, but it’s evident that his angst is against Times Network. The Times of India group-owned television network is of course known to be fierce in the battlefield especially when it thinks a newbie could be an aggressor. It did that when the Ambanis launched a business paper to take on The Economic Times in 1990. In 2005, when Hindustan Times and DNA were getting set to enter its bastion Mumbai, it launched Mumbai Mirror and got very aggressive in its offers to advertisers. And now as stiff competition comes in from the man who built it, Times Network under the leadership of an old Times group warhorse MK Anand, has unveiled a manifold offensive.

First, ensure that the attrition is under check. Some elevations have happened. Some more have been motivated to stay back.

Second, get the content plan in order. Anand is reportedly active on the editorial front too, and is marked on key newsroom decisions and stories, a move that upset some

Third, launching a ‘flanking product’. Hence Mirror Now

Fourth, Times Now to also go into HD (which is to be announced soon)

And fifth: fight Republic on the street… Revenues, Ratings, Regulators, MIB, ASCI… wherever necessary.

When Goswami popped the ‘David v/s Goliath’ question, there was applause. Taaliyaan! He also took on the Delhi-centric channels saying that the national media is “content in Lutyens Delhi that you stop fighting for the people of the country”.

Citing the example of the Kansas City killing of 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibotla, he said: “The satiated Lutyens media was content in labelling it as quote unquote ‘hate crime’. And I ask you today: isn’t there a dent needed in the Indian media to shake it up…to fight for families like that of Kuchibotla. How can you be so satiated in Lutyens Delhi?”

After taking on his seniors (and the mighty) in the capital, he moved on to talks about his style of journalism. “The focus is on India and the focus is on English but English done the Indian way. When I started off as a journalist…they said i should take pauses at the right places…..I won’t speak in the polished way..I will speak English the Indian way…I want to speak in the language that the 25-year-old in the Indian newsroom relates to”, he said. Regular watchers of his shows recall how he would often break into an ‘Arre Baba’ while speaking to guests. Defending his brand of journalism, which is in every possible way is being pursued by the existing dispensation at Times Now, he said: “..They’ll tell you facts are sacred and opinion is free. I say facts are available and opinion is sacred. Opinion in the media is especially sacred because it is a differentiator between a journalism that is confrontational and a journalism that is happy to be docile and subdued. Opinion in the media is especially sacred because it is a differentiator between a journalism that choses to takes the right side of the truth and one that prefers to be falsely neutral in order to perpetuate the status-quo… opinionated media that has the potential to be activist. It is opinionated media that has the potential to be a change agent to being merely a supplier of information. I refuse to be simply a supplier of information,” Arnab said, throwing the gauntlet again down- this time at the old traditional definition of journalism.

We haven’t heard the last from Arnab Goswami’s Republic and Times Network’s MK Anand. Both are known to fight hard, and both are known to be happy losers. But who is?

 

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