As the Maharashtra government muzzles the voice of India’s most popular TV anchor Arnab Goswami, many of his colleagues and competitors of the TV industry are silent. Even those who raised the voice on the arrest of Arnab Goswami by Maharashtra government, have big caveat ‘I do not agree with his brand of journalism’ in the same breath.
In fact, in a tweet, Editor of India TV Rajat Sharma ridiculed Arnab Goswami, although in name of Trump. “He ridiculed and abused media, lied on camera, had no basic decency, was mean to everyone, faked popularity, now he wants SC to rescue him and media to support him! What a bully…!!! Concede and go now, Mr Trump,” tweeted Rajat Sharma.
However, people instantly identified the intention and many criticized Rajat Shamra for trolling and criticizing Arnab Goswami. Many other doyens of Indian journalism are speaking against Arnab Goswami and ridiculing his brand of journalism instead of supporting him.
So, what is the reason behind the popular anchors and editors of ‘nationalist’ TV channels like India TV, Zee News, and Times Now, not whole-heartedly supporting Arnab Goswami?
Well, it is all about competition and business rivalry. Rajat Sharma, chairman and editor-in-chief of India TV, is President of News Broadcasters Association (NBA), an industry body of TV channels formed in October 2008 that claims to represent the TV news industry. The founding members of the NBA include top media houses including India Today Group, ABP Network, Times Group, TV 18 Group, Zee News, and many other popular names of the Indian TV industry.
However, Arnab Goswami, who had many disagreements over functioning of NBA, formed a new body along with a national channel TV9 Bharatvarsh, and more than 45 regional channels, named National Broadcasting Federation. The regional channels were enthusiastic about joining the NBF because they were poorly represented in the NBA.
In the last few years, the channels run by the Republic Group- Republic Bharat and Republic TV- and TV9 Bharatvarsh snatched all the nationalist audience from the TV channels that are represented by the NBA. Republic Bharat and TV 9 Bharatvarsh were consistently ranked among top 3 Hindi channels and Republic TV always topped among the English channels in the BARC’s TRP ranking.
Therefore, when the Maharashtra police launched the probe in the TRP case, the channels represented by the NBA were more than enthusiastic to join the tirade against Republic TV and Arnab Goswami.
Now, after the arrest of Goswami in the abetment to suicide case, the channels represented by NBA are cautious in supporting him, and some are even criticizing him because Arnab not only challenged their hegemony as an industry representative but also snatched their audience.
The entry of Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV and TV 9 Bharatvarsh has led to substantial loss of revenue to the established channels as advertisement pie is limited and new entrants are claiming a bigger share.
Clearly, the lack of enthusiasm in support of Arnab, even among the nationalist section of the national media, is purely due to the political economy of the TV industry.
However, what these channels must not forget is, not supporting Arnab Goswami due to business rivalry will cost them heavily, and if they are thrown under the bus by some government one day, Arnab and his supporters would not stand for them. Today Maharashtra government has come for Republic TV, but one day they will come for other channels too- the government previously arrested a Newslaundry reporter- and then there will be no one to support because once you set a bad precedent, you can bet that it will be followed.