Future tense for Arnab Goswami?

12 Nov,2020



By Pradyuman Maheshwari



In early 2009, I was grilled by a hundred-odd students at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management on the role of Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai in the coverage of the Mumbai terror siege in November the previous year. Student – mostly millennials –  were incensed with the way they covered the terror attack, and expected me to endorse their sentiments. I didn’t, though I did acknowledge that things weren’t done right.



In the last few months, I am being quizzed similarly about the role of the media given the Sushant Singh Rajput death, and even before that the entire coverage of the Narendra Modi government and its actions and policies. An interview with Arnab Goswami a few months ago, where I thought I asked some direct questions, actually got me brickbats. Why the hell did I have to interview him? Why give him any importance, I was asked. A few thought I was being soft on him. And some believe that he is a friend.



If a friendly acquaintance can be called a friend, then so be it. I have admired his skills as a businessman. And he was indeed a really sharp journalist.



I use a ‘was’ because I too honestly believe he has ceased to be a journalist, in the way I define it. The dictionary definition of journalism though doesn’t require a practitioner to be conducting oneself in a non-partisan manner. Journalism doesn’t mean that you have to be honest, fair and sincere. People who deploy paid content also fashion themselves as journalists, publications which sell content for cash by a just-for-the-sake-of-putting-it disclaimer also say they are doing great journalism. Current affairs is as much about the Bihar as it’s about Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt. Chill, I used these two filmi names for want of a better example. Stay here, there’s no khaas khabar about them.



I read the statement of Arnab Goswami’s wife that was doing the rounds on the internet. At a purely personal level, I feel for his family. Though I wonder whether they felt the same when Republic TV was gunning for Rhea Chakraborty. Did they worry about the actor being tortured, beaten up, whatever? I am convinced that what Arnab is being subjected to is vendetta. The Maharashtra government is out to get him. And try and hope he is finished. Ensure Republic TV and Republic Bharat go off the EPG.


Just about everyone I’ve interacted with believes he deserves to be punished for attempting to demolish Chakraborty. Just about, not all.



But when Arnab Goswami was granted bail on Wednesday by a Supreme Court vacation bench comprising Justice DY Chandrachud, one of the most erudite and stylish judges of our time, and Justice Indira Banerjee, they surely corrected what was legally wrong.


Corrected a wrong, because I believe the arrest was misplaced, and from what some learned folks tell me, it wasn’t done in the right way.


Goswami had filed a special leave petition seeking interim bail. He was arrested by the Raigad police in Maharashtra and was moved to Taloja jail over the weekend. Goswami had been in judicial custody in a case regarding the suicide of a Mumbai interior designer and his mother in 2018. Earlier, Goswami’s plea to the Bombay High Court was rejected and he was asked to approach the Sessions Court. The abetment to suicide case was just a bahana.


I had thought Arnab Goswami would mend his ways. Would ease the shrill. But a few hours into watching his channel had me convinced that he was all set to up the ante. The picture you see above and in the slideshow are grabs from RepublicWorld.com. The way Arnab dared Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to arrest him is surely not going to be taken very kindly. The Supreme Court judges are reported to have asked the Maharashtra government not to take all of Arnab’s provocations seriously. Even if UT chills, the Sena cadres are known to be a sensitive lot.



If Arnab gone to the newsroom, hugged a few of his staff, shed a tear and choked while speaking, he would earned a million wah-wahs. The number of tweets would’ve galloped ahead to 4x what the telecast generated.



I have been asked a dozen-odd friends to request Arnab to take it easy. Not result in saying something that would appear to be interfering in the investigations.



But if his performance last evening was any indicator, there’s just no way he’s going to change. In fact he is all set to go on a rampage. Arnab has also announced his foray into regions  and an international channel as well, but that was announced last year as well. In fact one report said the foray was to be start in Jan 2020. That was pre-Covid, so no downturn could’ve impacted. I am sure the regional foray will happen, esp if it’s digital and streamed.



The concern here is not about meeting promises and announcements. He has announced a 17-month window. Which is one-and-a-half years. So, if Republic Media Network continues have a leadership position, it will happen sooner.



The worry is that if Arnab continues to take on the Maharashtra government and if his channel takes up most of primetime reporting on what its bossman and now a senior executive are going through, then the ratings are bound to suffer.



There were worries about advertisers backing out if Arnab would be off-air for too long. That thankfully for Republic will not happen. But it’s critical that the channel starts airing news beyond its legal tangles. And if the channel management and its minority shareholders really worry about its main man not getting embroiled in court cases, appearances etc, then the channel content and the business will suffer.



The ball is clearly in the courts of Arnab Goswami and the Maharashtra government. We think there should be climbdown of sorts at both ends. Will it happen? I doubt. Thackeray & Co want Arnab to apologise. He won’t. Goswami will want the Police Commissioner to be transferred. They won’t do that.


Future tense indeed.




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