Arnab’s Republic in the Republic of India. Is 4>117?

Arnab Goswami returned with a bang (with Republic TV) on 6th May 2017 approximately 7 months after he made his way out of Times Now. Not divulging into the details of what this post would be of, but the title surely infers that this would be a critical on Arnab’s new stint in the English News Industry.

 

Republic TV

Arnab Goswami and Republic TV

 

Arnab Goswami – This man needs no introduction

 

While he needs no introduction, it is his second stint in developing a new channel. In 2006, Times Now was launched under his leadership, gained prominence over the years with his heated debate at every weeknight and this lead to Times Now consolidating leadership for over 7 years (2009-2016) in his reign and had hosted notable personalities like Parvez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto, Gordon Brown, etc… on his famous show “Newshour”.

 

His family has a very complex political affiliation with his paternal grandfather affiliated to the undivided Indian National Congress, maternal grandfather affiliated to the Communist Party of India and father to the Bhartiya Janta Party.

 

Enough of introduction right! Let’s get to the main agenda

 

Arnab’s Republic

 

While Republic has been on the cards for a while, with the brand Arnab, getting the channel on the cable networks and digital networks became easy. Sponsors from the likes of Hike, Jio Digital Life, Microsoft, Ola, Renault, Star India, Vivo and Yes Bank jumped the bandwagon as Founding Sponsors and Hotstar became its digital partner. While the twitter handle was very much active even before the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) had granted it the TV channel license on 1st May, 2017.

 

On 6th May, he comes with an expose against Lalu Prasad Yadav and in the next one month with Arvind Gate, Sunanda Pushkar Tapes, ISIS tapes and other sensational exposes against various political parties and outfits got itself the pole position with 51% viewership in its first week.

In the first week, Republic TV tasted victory at the cost of the grand-old lady of English News genre Times Now, leading to pull down of watermark of all channels affiliated to the News Broadcasting Association (NBA – Except Republic TV) but the ratings sustained.

 

 Arnab’s Republic in the Republic of India

 

While Arnab came with an expose followed by another expose, it did cover up the amateurish reporting of news in the initial days of the launch due to lack of strong coverage as compared to the incumbents.

 

Ratings shot, so did the prices for the ads (approximately 50% of what IPL charges for Super Prime Time slot between 9 PM to 11:30 PM).

 

Arnab’s 2.11 million impressions against Times Now’s 1.148 million impressions proved that it had decimated completion, but the story isn’t so easy. The taglines you are reading on Times Now these days “Fictitious Ratings Decimated” is the effect of Republic’s stupendous launch.

 

According to the NBA, Republic had not listed itself in any particular genre like other News channel have done because of which the channel was available at different Local Channel Numbers (LCN) in cable operator-based TV networks. This seems to be recording the ratings multiple times (BARC denies it) and other channels pulled out of the ratings game for a week. While you might think that this is a new practice, to inform you channels (as stated by BARC) which had a revamp and during high-profile telecasts have used this technique before.

 

Reason: – India is the highly over-served News market in the world with 390+ channels in over 15 regional and national languages. The profits are very bleak (with 12 min ad cap) and the top 2 in the rating chart make profits while the third one just survives. This has pushed the ratings game to the all-new level.

 

TRAI intervenes in-between and slowly the ratings fall to normalcy. While due to the blackout, Times Now got a full two weeks as they pulled out after the ratings for Week 19 were out and considered Week 20 ratings as invalid, Week 21 there was a blackout while Week 22 was when they returned back in the ratings game.

 

They utilized this time to get classified information on Kashmir and Zakir Naik link to the INC to stay significant in the industry. Rahul Shivshankar was spotted twice on the channel (12 PM and 8 PM with India Upfront) everyday, Times Now started an all-day coverage with top news anchors and they did rework on their strategy.

 

Things worked in their favour and Times Now regained the pole position in Urban India (The Quint Report) while in overall India, Republic is slightly ahead of Times Now assuming the top post. 6 weeks Republic TV has sustained the top post.

 

Why should Times Now be happy?

 

Times Now is a premium a-la carte news channel which is available on most DTH platforms and Cable Networks at a price. This restricts its reach to networks and the people in Urban India. Republic is a free to air channel which is available at no additional cost to pay and free STB users.

 

See the ratings below

Republic TV

All India Ratings after Republic TV launch

 

Republic TV

Urban India and Republic TV

 

While Republic had the lead in the initial days, Times Now has closed the game to a two-sided contest with minimum gap and it has a benefit of carriage fees over Republic TV which amounts to about Rs.50 crore annually.

 

The reworked strategy seemed to have worked for the channel as a strong No.2 with a huge network support without a star reporter (Times Now is grooming all reporters in-house with Rahul Shivshankar being an old hand of Times Now) seemed to be reducing cost. The strategy got two new episodes of Frankly Speaking, thereby boasting the robustness of the network.

Arnab took a lot of time to come back (6 months) while anchors like Navika Kumar, Anand Narsimhan and Rahul Shivshankar got their hands firm in Times Now. While Arnab Goswami came with Republic, Times Now was ready for the battle and after 6 weeks it seems to be right.

 

Is 4>117?

 

Arnab Goswami came into prominence in 2008 due to the 24-hour long coverage of the Mumbai blast attacks. We liked the way he shouted on the top of his voice for the right; he seemed to be siding the Indian people, making him an instant undisputable king in English News Genre.

 

While his stint back in Republic TV seems to be pro-military, pro-government and highly nationalist. He had admitted in the AMA that journalism is not without nationalism. While I am not against nationalism, but the views of the other ends are rarely heard. Then he comes up with terms like “Lutyens Media” and has fearlessly being using abusive language against his panellists. While in Times Now, things seemed to be in control, while his temper has reached the new level in Republic TV. This might be the reason why people have started drifting away from Republic TV.

 

Rahul Shivshankar was a gem without the right resources at NewsX. Arnab’s exit in Times Now found a new person who knows what he speaks and speaks in the tone the way Indians want to listen. No abuse and he does give people on his panel to speak out before he acts like a jury. India Upfront is placed at the right time (8PM) just before the Super Prime Time with Arnab Goswami at 9 PM, thereby filing the gap to prove himself. As I have been observing him for 6 months, he does shout at the top of his voice (I will get back to this later) but speaks right in a way we understand what is actually going on.

 

Now you think what is 4> 117. English News Channels are watched by 4 million viewers in India as against 117 million by Hindi News Channel. Other regional news genres do have more viewership as compared to English News Channel. So as Republic TV or Times Now claims of massive impact on Indian politics is just a gimmick or is it really doing something. While channels go hell-bent to prove their impact (of course it does have on Indian polity, but I doubt to the extent they prove), do they really impact is what you have to think?

 

Have we created peace?

 

I am sure. English News used to be pleasant and it is today in channels like WION and BBC World News. Have you ever tried listening to debates hosted in Hindi News Channels? I am sure you must have. They are pleasant debates in which every single panellist speaks his verse (with interruption at times) and the issue is clearly understood.

 

We liked the way Arnab shouts on his panellists and he has admitted that his fan base likes that way of journalism. This type of shouting is spread onto all English News Channels. Today the English News Channels don’t show the headlines. They take one instance and pull it for the entire hour in the debate which doesn’t look like one. Have we created peace? Yes. We have created one in the form of Arnab Goswami.

 

While Hindi News Channels with a huge viewership base cater on conveying the news. Slots like Top 100 news across India, important issues (though dramatized) and Super Prime Time News reads in Zee News, ABP News, News Nation, etc.… is what is called news. The English News Genre has taken the news for a ride. No facts. Only shouting in the name of impact and pro-people.

 

And Arnab dreams of making Republic TV as a global news channel. Come on. His channel reflects the noisy India, which the world doesn’t like. Peace is visible on our TV sets.

 

I might sound brutal and arrogant, but yes, nowadays I just watch Republic TV for 1 minute and Times Now for the same amount of time and switch to DD News. Indian news needs a makeover.

 

Thanks for reading.

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