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Republic TV

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Republic TV
Republic TV.jpg
CountryIndia
Broadcast areaWorldwide
SloganYou are the Republic. We are just your voice.
HeadquartersMumbai, India
Programming
Language(s)English
Picture formatMPEG-3MPEG-4/HD
2160p 4K UHD
Ownership
OwnerArnab Goswami
ARG Outlier Media
Asianet News
Key peopleArnab Goswami
Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Sister channelsRepublic Bharat
Republic Bangla
History
Launched6 May 2017; 4 years ago (2017-05-06)
Links
WebsiteOfficial Website
Availability
Cable
Asianet Digital (India)Channel 96
Siti Cable (India)Channel 301
Satellite
Tata Sky (India)Channel 616
Dish TV (India)Channel 771
d2h (India)Channel 360
Airtel digital TV (India)Channel 376
Hathway Digital TV (India)Channel 260
Streaming media
Republic TV liveLive TV
YouTubeOfficial Channel
HotstarLive

Republic TV is a free-to-air Indian right-wing[5] news channel launched in May 2017.

It was co-founded by Arnab Goswami and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, before the latter relinquished his stake in May 2019, leaving Goswami as the majority stakeholder.[6] Chandrasekhar was an independent legislator from the National Democratic Alliance who later joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and Goswami was the former editor-in-chief of Times Now. The venture was funded primarily by Chandrashekhar through his company Asianet News.

Critical reception has been negative. The channel has been accused of practicing biased reporting in favour of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and stifling dissent; fake news and Islamophobic rhetoric were published on multiple occasions.[7][8][9][10] It has been convicted of breaching Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and News Broadcasting Standards Authority rules.[11][12]

History

Background

Arnab Goswami resigned as editor-in-chief of Times Now on 1 November 2016, citing editorial differences, lack of freedom and newsroom politics.[13][14] He hosted the last edition of his show,[15] The Newshour Debate, a fortnight later.[16][17] Incidentally, the show had been subject to an investigation by Ofcom, the UK broadcasting regulatory authority, in August and September; the investigation had held Times Now guilty of violating the impartiality clause of its broadcast code.[18]

On 16 December, Goswami announced his next venture — a news channel called Republic;[19] the name was later changed to Republic TV in the face of complaints by Subramanian Swamy.[20] Republic TV was hyped as India's first independent media outlet which would 'democratize' news and compete with global media giants whilst being unabashedly pro-India.[21]

Funding

Republic TV was funded in part by Asianet (ARG Outlier Asianet News Private Limited), which was primarily owned by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a then-independent member of Rajya Sabha who had political links with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was vice-chairman of the National Democratic Alliance in Kerala.[22][21] Among other major investors were Goswami himself, his wife Samyabrata Goswami, educationists Ramdas Pai and Ramakanta Panda — all of whom invested through SARG Media Holding Private Ltd.[23]

Chandrasekhar resigned from the board, after he officially joined the BJP in April 2018;[24] Goswami purchased back Asianet's shares in May 2019.[25][26]

Recruitments

The Wire and Newslaundry had come across an internal memo floated by Chandrasekhar's group that asked for selective recruitment of right-of-center pro-military voices, who were conducive to his ideology.[27]

S. Sundaram, who had served as the CFO for Times Now between 2005 and 2012, was named the Group CFO. Chief Business Officer of Reliance Broadcast Network Vikas Khanchandani, who had earlier stints as Senior Vice President of NDTV, was made the CEO[28] and co-founder of The News Minute, Chitra Subramaniam was roped in as the editorial adviser.[29] Others who joined included senior anchor of Thanthi TV S. A. Hariharan, retired army officer and television personality Gaurav Arya,[30] former chief correspondent from Jammu and Kashmir for Times Now Aditya Raj Kaul, writer and founder-editor of Gentleman, Minhaz Merchant[31] and actor Anupam Kher.[32]

Launch

The channel was launched on 6 May 2017 as a free-to-air channel through most DTH services and cable television operators, alongside over mobile platforms such as JioTV and Hotstar.[33] Reporting on its launch, Business Standard wrote "The company has already hired 300 people, of whom 215 are on board. A state-of-the-art-studio is being built in Mumbai's Lower Parel area."[34]

On 2 February 2019, the channel launched its Hindi language outlet named Republic Bharat.[35]

Republic TV launched Republic Bangla, Bengali language news channel on 7 March 2021.[36]

Reception

Public

Republic TV allegedly became the most-watched English news channel in India in its first week of airing in May 2017 with 21.1 lakh (2.11 million) impressions[37] and accounted for 51.9 per cent viewership as per data released for the week by the BARC.[38][39] The Financial Express noted Republic TV to be the most-watched English news channel in India for 100 weeks in a row since its founding.[26] The top news channel spot was taken over by DD India, a public service broadcaster, in February 2019, according to the Indian newspaper Mint.[25]

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) subsequently lodged a complaint with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) accusing the group of using unethical tactics for high viewership. It claimed that the channel ran multiple feeds over various multi-system operator (MSO) platforms and listed itself at multiple locations across various genres in the electronic program guide, in contravention of TRAI rules.[40][41] TRAI cautioned the channel against such practices and determined the viewership numbers to have been inflated.[42]

These data have been since further challenged, after the channel found itself embroiled in a viewership-manipulation scam around late 2020.

Critical commentary

In a typical program, from 2017, Goswami mentioned a law mandating that movie theatres play the national anthem, and asked whether people should be required to stand; his guest Waris Pathan, a Muslim assemblyman, argued that it should be a matter of choice.
'Why can’t you stand up?' — Goswami shouted at Pathan. Before Pathan could get out an answer, he yelled again — 'Why can’t you stand up? What’s your problem with it?'
Pathan kept trying, but Goswami, his hair flying, shouted over him:- 'I’ll tell you why, because—I’ll tell you why. I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you why. Can I tell you? Then why don’t you stop, and I’ll tell you why? Don’t be an anti-national! Don’t be an anti-national! Don’t be an anti-national!'...

Dexter Filkins, "Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi's India". The New Yorker. 2 December 2019.

The channel has been noted for its right-wing[5] opinionated reporting[43] in support of BJP[44] and Hindutva across a wide spectrum of situations,[45][46] including by presenting political opponents in a negative light and avoiding criticism of figures from ruling parties.[56][57] The channel has aided in developing and popularizing the neologisms of "Urban Naxal" and "tukde tukde gang" to denote anti-establishment voices critical to right wing sentiments, advocate government repression, and evoke hyper-nationalism among the audience.[57][58][59][9][60] Attempts to polarize the audience and quell communal tensions by direct and indirect amplification of Islamophobic rhetoric (Love Jihad etc.) situated within a post-truth discourse have been noted as well.[58][1][61]

The channel has been compared to North Korean media for its extreme pro-government affinity and muzzling of dissent.[62][63] Noted political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot, journalist Dexter Filkins and others compare it to Fox News, an American TV channel that practices biased reporting in favor of the Republican Party.[64][55][65][66]

Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, on Business Standard, noted it to be a "noisy, chaotic place where coherent debate without shouting, screaming and name-calling is impossible";[67] others have noted of its shows to be a "battle of babble", judgmental, brash and hawkish.[68][69][70] Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar, in a Foreign Policy article, noted its coverage of the 2019 India-Pakistan conflict, to put jingoism ahead of journalism.[71] Historian Ramachandra Guha notes it to be a pro-government channel, which ignored issues of joblessness, agrarian distress et al. and instead took to demonizing Pakistan along with opposition parties, furthering religious bigotry in the process.[72] Jaffrelot reiterated accusations of pliability after undertaking a detailed analysis of all debates hold by the channel till April 2020 (and contrasting it with NDTV); he hold the venture to have a negative consequence on India's democracy and raised concerns about the manner in which broader issues of socio-economical order were pushed away from the discourse-sphere.[57] Fifty percent of the debates were solely focused on criticizing the opposition and Modi was extensively lauded all-around whilst not a single debate were construable as being explicitly in opposition's favor.[57][a]

Fact checkers have documented it to have propagated dubious or fake news, on multiple occasions.[10]

Controversies

Press Conference Ban by Indian National Congress

Reporters from the channel have been banned from attending any press conference of the Indian National Congress, citing them being subject to incessantly aggressive attacks by the channel.[85]

Defamation

In May 2017, parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor filed a civil defamation case in the Delhi High Court against Goswami and Republic TV in connection with the channel's broadcast of news items from 8 to 13 May claiming him to be involved in his wife Sunanda Pushkar's unnatural death.[86][87] Seeking the channel's response, Justice Manmohan of the High Court noted :- "Bring down the rhetoric. You can put out your story, you can put out the facts. You cannot call him names. That is uncalled for."[88]

IP rights infringement

In May 2017, Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. (BCCL) lodged a complaint against Goswami and Prema Sridevi, a journalist with Republic TV, under the Indian Penal Code and Information Technology Act, 2000 accusing them of copyright infringement.[89] BCCL alleged that the two, previously employed with Times Now, that it owns and operates, had used its intellectual property (IP) in telecasting certain audio tapes that were in their possession during their time at the former Channel. Alongside IP infringement, the complaint also alleged the commission of offenses of theft, criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of property, on the two, on multiple occasions days after the channel's launch.[90][91]

Regulatory censures

In 2018, News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), the broadcasting regulator of India,[92] demanded Republic TV to tender a full-screen apology for use of multiple objectionable words to describe a bunch of people at a political rally, who were harassing one of his journalists.[93] Republic TV "removed the video from its website and YouTube account" after receiving the complaint[94][95] but refused to comply with the NBSA order, instead filing an appeal.[93]

Around a year later, it once again asked Republic TV to broadcast a public apology, after the channel declined to cooperate in another case accusing it of violating the standard prohibitions on racial and religious stereotyping, and instead commented on the body being engaged in "intense pseudo-judicial oversight".[96] Republic TV did not abide by the order yet again;[96] incidentally, Goswami was the convener of the committee that drafted the code, years back.[97] Two weeks after, Goswami along with other media-personas formed the National Broadcasting Federation (NBF) as a new regulatory body; this has since nulled the authority of NBSA to regulate Republic TV.[98][99][100]

Unfair practices

In India, the Broadcast Audience Research Council, or BARC is the industry body responsible for television-audience measurement. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) received complaints from the News Broadcasters Association against Republic TV alleging that it was violating TRAI's broadcast sector regulations with its unfair practices and sought an investigation into it.[101]

According to the complaint, Republic Bharat had declared its genre as English news, but it was appearing in additional genres after registering itself in those genres. For example, in Delhi, the channel was appearing in both English and Hindi news category. Each "impression" that is reported in the TV viewership data, is an individual instance of viewing of the channel, even if it is a fleeting view. When a viewer cycled through the channels, Republic TV would appear twice, giving it double impressions as compared to other channels. Some cable network had set Republic TV as the default channel (i.e. landing channel) displayed whenever the TV was turned on, thereby increasing the impressions. These practices were seen as a deliberate attempt to illegally garner higher BARC ratings and increase viewership.[101] [102]

The complainants, NBA also sought from BARC that it withhold publishing viewership data for Republic till its unfair practices stopped. BARC did not act on the request. Subsequently multiple leading English-language news channels exited from the BARC system. A news network also approached the Delhi high court against the unfair practices by Republic TV to inflate their ratings.[101]

Ratings manipulation

In October 2020, upon receiving a complaint accusing some channels of fraudulently inflating their viewership ratings, Mumbai Police launched an investigation into Republic TV's viewership ratings.[103]

The police alleges that the channel inflated its ratings by bribing low-income individuals, including people who did not comprehend English, to keep their televisions tuned to Republic TV; logs of WhatsApp chats between Goswami and the former chief executive of BARC (agency responsible for measuring TRP) were published to provide further evidence of collusion.[103][105][106][107] The inflated TRP was leveraged to bargain for higher revenues from advertisers.[103]

Goswami denies the allegations and has accused the Mumbai Police of retaliating against the channel's recent criticism of their activities.[108][109][110][111][112] On 21 October, Central Bureau of Investigation got involved in the investigation, with the case now potentially covering every news channel in India.[113][114] On 13 December, Republic TV CEO was arrested in Mumbai, before being granted bail.[115]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Debates were classified into Politics (Neutral), Anti-BJP, Anti-opposition, Pro-BJP, Pro-opposition, Economy, Crime and Justice, Health and Safety, and so on. There were some overlaps.

References

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