The country’s most controversial media outlet NDTV is under the scanner yet again. Pgurus, an alternative media initiative with links to nationalist stalwarts such as S Gurumurthy and Subramanian Swamy, has published a series of exposes which bring forth financial irregularities and misdemeanours allegedly perpetrated by NDTV. This has given additional credence to the theory held by many: that NDTV’s media business is only a front and there exists a sinister underbelly.
NDTV has been in the financial doldrums for a while now. Its TRP ratings, a gauge for performance in terms of viewership, have been dismal for the last few years. A year back, an article published in The Caravan which is considered a leftist magazine, shed light on several murky financial transactions associated to NDTV. The article also outlined how the media outlet which was somewhat of a pioneer back in the day had degenerated into a bleeding organisation which offered high-paying jobs to entitled individuals. You can read it right here. Why a bunch of influential individuals, not well known for their professional acumen, drew fat pay-checks and perks from an organisation in perpetual decline is anybody’s guess.
Pgurus claims that NDTV’s promoter and a veteran face of the Indian mainstream media Pranoy Roy cheated his investors and siphoned off a hundred and forty-five crore rupees from the company. This was done by routing money through a shell company owned by him and his wife. It is alleged that the shell company diverted over fifty crores to Roy’s personal account. In another instance, the shell company received a three hundred and seventy-five crore rupee loan from a bank at an interest rate of nineteen percent, and within two days over ninety crores rupees were diverted to Roy and his wife as interest free loans. It is also alleged that the income tax commissioner who discovered this was hounded with the help of former finance minister Chidambaram, and that one of the Enforcement Directorate’s money trails in the 2G spectrum scam leads to NDTV’s doorstep. The alleged irregularity in the last instance is valued at two hundred crores. You can read a summary of each scandal and find links to the detailed exposes here
Naturally, NDTV has denied these allegations and attacked Gurumurthy and Pgurus and those associated with the outlet. In its defense, it has claimed to be the most trusted media brand in the country.
Irrespective of one’s preconceived notions, there are several instances that demonstrate such a claim to be nothing short of laughable. Be that as it may, those NDTV has attacked for spreading lies about itself are extremely respected individuals known for their high standards of integrity. Not many are buying NDTV’s line that this is simply an attempt to malign it. Interestingly, NDTV’s answers to Pgurus’ allegations neither contain a warning or a threat to legal action. This is quite uncharacteristic of a news outlet whose top anchors are ready to take Twitter trolls and harmless bloggers to court at the drop of a hat.
For example, the blogger Chaitanya Kunte wrote about how the media outlet, and one of its anchors in particular, covered the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai in a manner that the perpetrators found quite useful to their quest. Charges were brought against the blogger, forcing him to take down his blog. However, after the Supreme Court made observations about how certain television coverage aided the terrorists, Chaintanya now stands vindicated. You can read all about it here
The Two other instances further vindicate Chaitanya. The first being the praise the anchor in question received from the 26/11 mastermind Hafeez Sayed recently, for her ‘good work’. The other being the one-day ban imposed on NDTV for their coverage of the Pathankot attacks, wherein they revealed sensitive information on air. Though the one-day ban hasn’t been carried out yet, this kind of Pak-aiding coverage seems to be the norm. Although it seems far-fetched, many believe that one of its sinister occupations is to facilitate Pakistani strategic objectives.
The anchor in question was also part of the infamous Radia tapes. She is heard discussing cabinet formation with corporate lobbyist Nira Radia, an accused in the 2G scam. Here is a link to the original story
The conversations revealed that the anchor was in fact an influential power broker, who played an important part in the negotiations around cabinet formation. Considering the channel’s inability to find resonance with the masses and its pathetic financial condition, many were surprised to see the disproportionate influence its journalists wielded in the corridors of power. Again, it led many to believe that this sort backroom brokering was one its sinister occupations.
It did not stop there for NDTV. Earlier this year, the media outlet filed a petition before the National Green Tribunal to stop the Sagarmala project. This mega project consisted of hundred and fifty major projects along India’s coastline, which when they materialized, would save the country an estimated thirty-five thousand crores in logistics while boosting exports by an estimated hundred ten billion dollars and creating an around one crore new jobs. It is rather strange for a media outlet, with no expertise in any of the necessary fields, to indulge in such acts. Moreover, it was done quite stealthily. You can read about it here. This was considered to be an attempt to stall Prime Minister Modi’s developmental agenda. It is common knowledge that they haven’t covered Narendra Modi in a fair way since his Gujarat days, and many believe that being political pawns is yet another one of their sinister occupations.
As mentioned earlier, what Gurumurthy and Pgurus have brought to the fore gives further credence to the theory that NDTV’s media business is a front for sinister occupations. For peddlers of this theory, money laundering and the defrauding of banks can be added to the list of sinister occupations. Perhaps the entire theory is a figment of some people’s imagination, and Pranoy Roy and company will emerge as virtuous, squeaky-clean saints when the investigations are complete.
On one side, there is Gururmurthy, whose journalism took on the likes of Dhirubhai Ambani and Indira Gandhi, and exposed them. On the other, there is Pranoy Roy, who received indirect funding from Reliance and made NDTV what it is today. With such illustrious credentials on either side, it’s so difficult to predict who is in the right!
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