Ranjona Banerji: Rough weather for Republic on the Net?!

11 Aug,2017

By Ranjona Banerji


O dear Republic TV. Arnab Goswami, whatever his other faults, has always been a staunch supporter of women’s rights. But after DJ Varnika Kundu’s allegation that she was stalked by two men in Chandigarh at night, one of whom was the son of the Haryana BJP chief, things went a little awkward for the TV channel. Kundu is the daughter of a serving IAS officer. Initial reports suggested that the police were trying to save Shubash Barala’s son Vikas and friend Ashish from the worst of it: CCTV coverage of the areas were “missing”, the first charge against the two were minor so they were easily out on bail, that they were not arrested on the Friday to save them three nights in jail until they met a magistrate and so on.

As outrage grew, so did the police’s commitment to the case and not to political pressure. In the midst of all this, Republic TV decided to run an online Facebook poll asking people whether they supported the hashtag: #IStandWithVarnika doing the rounds on social media. The votes tallied to 1442 saying yes and 1583 saying no.

That is, more Republic TV viewers did not feel the need to support the woman being stalked than those who did. The result was somewhat contrary to the TV channel’s coverage of the incident. The poll was taken down.

The “why” is not really clear: If you run a poll, any poll, the results may not always be what you want. Also, Republic TV has since its launch has been more pro-BJP than other news channels. So what is so surprising in this poll? Why would its viewership suddenly turn anti-BJP because of a woman who had been stalked? The initial comments from most BJP members and supporters – barring perhaps Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher of the BJP – all tried to blame the woman who had made the accusation. On what basis did Republic TV think that one incident would turn its viewership? And if “truth” and better journalism is what you claim to give us, then why so shy of the thoughts of your own fans and viewers?

Here is Boom Live’s report on the matter, including the screenshot of the poll results which now been taken down:

Republic TV’s Facebook Poll Backfires; Majority Say They Will Not Stand With Varnika Kundu

In another social media embarrassment for Republic TV, the news channel had to remove its newly launched app from Google Play Store after it received massive negative ratings. The negative ratings – also on the voting button on its Facebook page – could have led to a potential fall in revenue. Both the app and the Facebook rating option have since been removed.

According to news reports, there was a massive surge in low ratings from Kerala, after Republic TV tried to portray the state as some sort of a lawless battleground. The Republic TV slant was of course pro-RSS, BJP and anti-CPM. If the TV channel followed any semblance of journalism, it would have concentrated on official crime figures which make it clear that people from both sides of the political spectrum have been killed.


The Internet is a strange place and online polls and behaviour are both unpredictable and more often than not, vicious. If you are going to venture in then you should at least have the courage to stand by your convictions. Republic TV has demonstrated, sadly, both lack of judgment and cowardice. Why not brave out the storm or stand by the opinions of your viewers, which you yourself have stoked to high levels of intolerance?

The biter bit?


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