What the Man's World interview tells us about Arnab Goswami
Whether a journalist needs a PR team is in itself a big question.
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If Republic TV is a "movement", Arnab Goswami is the "revolutionary" leading it.
Gearing up to launch his own media venture — which will be both on TV and web with coverage not just from India, but even the international markets — Goswami is taking on various platforms talking about Republic TV, which he says is a "movement" for the people. Something that will be different from the "Lutyens' Delhi" media, which — much to Goswami's chagrin — is "politically correct" and not honest enough to "take positions", "question" and raise its voice against all that is wrong.
It's surprising that the man — who shut everyone up with his belligerent ownership of media probity and transparency — has exposed his double standards during one such interview for a magazine.
The Man’s World magazine, which ran a cover story on him in its latest edition, carried an interview of Goswami, who mostly talked in detail about his new venture. While the accompanying photo shoot trended on Twitter because of his newly acquired "hipster" looks, it was a disclosure from the magazine that kind of stunned everyone.
It revealed that the questions in the interview were vetted by Goswami’s PR team (yes, he has apparently hired one) and the interviewer was told not to ask two questions — the ownership pattern of Republic TV and its association with NDA MP, Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
Arnab Goswami engaged a PR team for his 'Man's World' magazine interview. They vetted the questions and didn't want two questions asked. pic.twitter.com/gxNIJ4Q6MK— churumuri (@churumuri) April 11, 2017
"On the disclosure side, the questions in this interview (except the follow-up ones) were vetted by his PR team. We were told to avoid two questions. The first dealt with the ownership of Republic TV and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, on whether the MP’s closeness to the BJP militates against the independent character of the channel. Secondly, about Goswami’s own position vis-à-vis the legal fight between Chandrasekhar and The Wire, over the aforementioned story. Our question was whether it was healthy for a democracy if the press was muzzled in any way. Goswami did, however, obliquely talk about his issues with The Wire."
But this is not the first time when Goswami's "transparency" and "uprightness" have come under the scanner. His venture has been on the radar of every media house and consumer ever since he quit Times Now. More so because the man believes in pointing fingers at others all the time, but maintains "dictatorial secrecy" about his own project.
Is this how he aspires to ring in a "movement" for the people that claims to be an "independent" channel, which will supposedly suck the air out of the "Lutyens' media"?
Well, doesn't seem like. Here's why:
1) Although we understand his interview to Man's World was a PR exercise as part of the Republic TV launch, something that will give him and his venture enough exposure, what is surprising is the fact that he pressed his PR team to vet the questions. Whether a journalist needs a PR team is in itself a big question to ponder upon.
2) Among those who have reportedly invested in Goswami's Republic TV are NDA MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Mohandas Pai, a former executive of Infosys — both known for their strong association with the BJP. Even though Chandrasekhar is an independent MP, he campaigned for the NDA in Kerala in the run-up to the Assembly elections in May last year. Pai, on the other hand, is seen as a supporter of BJP and its right-wing ideology — someone who is among those unofficial supporters who have defended the BJP and its agenda even better the party's spokespersons.
3) If Goswami is not worried about the credentials of his investors then what is he hiding from the world? Apparently, Chandrasekhar’s "independence" has also been doubted. Chandrasekhar is the founder and chairman of Jupiter Capital. Last year an email sent from Jupiter Capital CEO, Amit Gupta, to editorial heads of media outlets owned by the company was leaked to the media.
These outlets include Malayalam news channel Asianet News, Kannada news channel Suvarna News, web portal Newsable and newspaper Kannada Prabha. The content of the email, meant for the editorial staff said that “all editorial talent to be hired” should be “right of centre in his/her editorial tonality,” “pro-India and pro-military,” and they must be “well familiarised with his thoughts on nationalism and governance".
4) For someone who constantly sledgehammers about probity and transparency in a democracy that badly lacks honest and fair journalism, Goswami must answer how he plans to remain "independent" and impartial?
In a recent interview to Radio City, he openly batted for "media trial". He said, "Trial by media should happen when it comes to "corruption, terrorism and communal problems". He also called himself the "judge, jury, executioner" on his show. Has he already decided he can choose not to come clean on his own venture while raising fingers at all others?
5) He also said: "It's rubbish that the media shouldn't take position and should do just reporting. These are 1990s talk." Yes, Goswami says the media in 2017 has to change and take sides. So, should we take it that Goswami has decided to take sides in favour of one particular political party?
It seems he is taking his role of "judge, jury, executioner" too seriously.