Is Group CEO Vikas Khanchandani paying the price for Republic TV’s journalism?

14 Dec,2020

 

 

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

On Sunday, December 13, 2020, Republic Media Network Group Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani had stepped out on his morning walk in suburban Mumbai. A little after 8am, when he got back home, there was a police contingent waiting for him. He was arrested on the TRP Scam case that has been raging in the industry for a few months. There was some hope still since the matter was going to come for hearing in the presence of the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, but rather than secure bail or release, he was remanded to police custody till tomorrow (December 15).

 

Khanchandani is the fourth Republic TV employee who has been arrested by the Mumbai police including founder, editor-in-chief and managing director Arnab Goswami. Last week, he was summoned several times by the police for questioning.

 

So what is Khanchandani’s crime?

 

1. He is Group CEO of Republic Media Network, and is hence responsible for all business functions of the organisation. He reports to Arnab Goswami who is also managing director and the primary promoter.

 

2. As per the Companies Act of 2013, the law clearly lists  the key managerial personnel included – in this order: The MD or CEO or Manager and in their absence: a whole-time director. These are followed by the Company Secretary and then the Chief Financial Officer. In Republic’s case, the MD and promoter is the key official, but guess arresting him again would be too hot to handle

 

3. The police says that as Group CEO and to whom Chief Operating Officer Priya Mukherjee reported, Khanchandani instructed her and the team on all the allegedly illegal actions.

 

4. Republic TV, as per the police claims, had allegedly indulged in activities that regulatory body TRAI (short for Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) frowns upon

 

It may be noted that Khanchandani was arrested a day before his anticipatory bail application was to be heard by the Sessions Court in Mumbai. He was represented by Senior Advocate and Republic TV’s lawyer, Aabad Ponda.

 

So what you have above is the official stand, but it’s clear that Khanchandani was arrested given the ongoing slugfest on between Goswami and the Maharashtra government and Mumbai Police. Both have been equally critical of each other, but Goswami has gone a step further to damn and provoke the government and the Police Commissioner. On air. In English and in Hindi.

 

Logically, Khanchandani should have had the industry come out in support. This writer was among the first to do that, only to be ridiculed and questioned on Twitter that Khanchandani was party to all the excesses of Goswami on television. The media trial that happened post the actor Sushant Singh Rajput death and the manner in which Rajput’s friend and actor Rhea Chakraborty was being targeted ensured that even Goswami’s well-wishers (like this writer) turned against him.

 

And then there is Goswami’s very open praise of the BJP-led NDA government’s policies and actions. While the channel owner may say that it’s his nationalism that governs him, it’s a clear pursuit of ratings (nothing wrong with it) and commerce at all cost that is driving him. Thankfully for him, the BJP is firmly in the saddle till mid-2024, but the result is that all the goodwill that the channel and its founder have had had has been lost. Khanchandani, as Goswami’s second-in-command, bears the brunt of this legacy.

 

Sample the tweet by Raj Nayak, a senior mediaperson who is known to be a friend and mentor to Khanchandani: “I am really saddened by the arrest of my dear friend #VikasKhanchandani. We’ve been close for over 2 decades. I can vouch for his integrity. His only fault being at the wrong place at the wrong time and getting caught in the crossfire. Praying that he is safe and released soon.”

 

 

 

Let’s read this line from Nayak’s tweet again: His only fault being at the wrong place at the wrong time and getting caught in the crossfire.

 

Clearly, there is nothing that’s left unsaid. Khanchandani is a good guy, but at the wrong place – Republic Media Network.

 

So what must be done:

 

1. Khanchandani, his family and friends and the industry must prevail upon Goswami to cease and desist from provoking the government and courts any longer. On Sunday, when the Court order came in, Goswami was on air and was virtually questioning the Court verdict. If it is examined for Contempt of Court and found to disobeying the judiciary, Khanchandani could have problems. In fact, if the government is provoked further, it will only delay the decision to free Khanchandani

 

2. This is a personal and professional decision, but it’s time that Khanchandani and all right-thinking (right as in correct and not the politically right) people working with Republic Media Network weigh how their continuance in the organisation impacts their moral and legal standing.

 

My tweet expressing sadness at Khanchandani’s arrest and assertion that he has a squeaky clean reputation had some who endorsed his professional standards but also drew some angry feedback. Sample this: “… the fact remains that he has been part of a hate factory that has been selling ads to promote more hate based on gaming the system because of inefficiencies”.

 

 

Another comment said: “… would you say that he somewhere profited when the whole SSR debacle was taking place on his network, where the so called ‘guilty’ were charged even before a proper trial. Even if he did what he did while being aware of the right or wrong then I guess Karma’s a bitch.”

 

The decision on what next is clearly with Goswami and Khanchandani. And whether Khanchandani spends two or more days depends on how Goswami conducts himself. On television.

 

He was an excellent journalist, is well-educated, has impeccable social skills, but when he’s on camera and in his studio, he’s a different being.

 

The Shiv Sena-led MVA government has such stalwarts like Sharad Pawar mentoring it. The fact that the combine could outwit a BJP with superpowers like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah speaks volumes for what they can achieve.

 

Sadly, Khanchandani and his family are paying the price for all of Goswami’s actions.

 

Pradyuman Maheshwari is a senior journalist and media commentator. He is also Founder and Editor-in-Chief, MxMIndia. His views here are personal

 

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