Will NDTV retain its independence post-Adani stake buy?

24 Aug,2022

 

 

By Our Staff

 

Gautam Adani is known for many things. But we’ll look at just three relevant here: One being an astute and ambitious businessperson, two, his proximity to various governments but more so the ruling Narendra Modi-led BJP at the Centre and being a diehard foodie.

 

Insiders will tell you how after key meetings with his leadership, he breaks into discussions on food. Or if he has a dinner planned with some key guests, he will not hesitate to step out and go into very extensive detailing on the menu.

 

Care goes into the right masala, tadka and the timing when each thing is supposed to happen. Let the food mature well, ensure it’s well cut and plated.

 

We know about his ambitions. Founded less than 35 years back (in 1988) with commodity trading, his business interests are in diverse infra areas, power, food processing, airport operations. And now the media.

 

His interests in the media were well-known. His recent acquisition of stake Quint and earlier the hire of seasoned news television editor Sanjay Pugalia were indicators that he is in it for the long-term. There were some rumours of his buying stake in a leading news network, which was denied and didn’t happen.

 

Although NDTV is now crying foul that it wasn’t consulted before the acquisition of 29.18% equity, it’s clear that it can’t do much about it. It had pledged the sale of 99.9% of equity in RRPL Holdings (RRPL = Radhika Roy Prannoy Roy) way back in 2008-09. At that time RRPR issued convertible warrants to VCPL (Vishwapradhan Commercial Pvt Ltd, the company that has now acquired by Adani).

 

The challenge lies ahead with VCPL making an open offer to acquire another 26 per cent stake.

 

Even as awards were being given out at the IndIAA Awards at Mumbai’s Taj Lands End in Mumbai on Tuesday evening, the discussion veered around the Acquisition. The question was: it’s just 29.18% equity for now and assuming that the 26% additional acquisition happens, what will be the future of the news network.

 

Which brings us to the second point: the clear (and close) proximity of Gautambhai and Narendrabhai. So will NDTV also join the chorus of channels that are aggressively pro-BJP? A meme doing the rounds gave the full-form of NDTV as: Narendra Damodardas TV. It wasn’t surprising that senior Congressman Jairam Ramesh expressed concern.

 

Clearly the battle for 2024 is going to be fought over news television as well as digital news, where NDTV is very strong and enjoys some leadership.

 

What will happen to Prannoy and Radhika Roy and their team at NDTV? What happens to Ravish Kumar, one of the sharpest critics of the Modi administration? What will happen to the independent, alternate voice that NDTV has had over the years.

 

Clearly, there’s a lot that’s set to happen. It also remains to be seen if the Roys are able to mobilise adequate support from key quarters in warding off the threat of a total acquisition and ouster.

 

Let’s wait and watch.

 

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