Television

Republic TV buzzing with pre-launch teasers featuring 'soft' targets, issues

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MUMBAI: “Can the cocktail circuit media and Maoist sympathisers please stand up and name themselves?: Arnab Asks”. The latest tweet from Republic stated. With Arnab Goswami and his new project Republic TV, it cannot be the normal. Rather, true to his style, honed to a level of art, hype is the new normal and the pre-launch marketing campaign of his new venture too is no exception. 

Now that Republic TV is set for a confirmed 6-May launch, Arnab chose to tease the audience, mostly comprising 20-40-year something who survive on high adrenalin, with a series of online 'Wait, I am coming soon’ creative that highlight more Goswami the man than the actual fare, which, if people have forgotten, is news.

A series of campaigns with catchy taglines like "Long time since we met....", "Gaikwad has done it again..." and "Good Times has come to an end" are doing the rounds of social media on Republic TV’s FB page, Twitter TL and on LinkedIn posts -- all targeting and featuring people who may be in the news for some reason or other.

In the "Long time since we met...." video Congress party veepee Rahul Gandhi is featured, for example. However, Gandhi no longer conjures up most Indians’ fancies, what with the man and the party doing badly for the moment in national politics. Similarly, the Ravindra Gaikwad creative too is a tad tame as he owes allegiance to a regional party that seems to have lost its charisma vis-à-vis its bigger political ally. And, the one on king of good times, runaway liquor baron Vijay Mallaya too seems like an obvious one. The media created a hype over his arrest in London, which turned out to be a routine affair in the very long journey of his extradition to India (if that happens at all) and laughed at by the man himself via tweets from London.

While critics have panned Goswami and Republic TV for choosing 'soft’ personality-targets for his marketing campaigns, others have criticised him for failing to highlight real issues that media should be really seized of.

Issues such as Article 370 in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir where BJP, along with its partner PDP, is in power or the financially beleaguered farmers from south India protesting in the Capital city, a few kilometers from the Parliament, over government apathy or the Rs 20,000 crore (Rs. 200,000 million) Ganga clean-up initiative that’s making little progress or why PM Modi’s Clean India campaign still has people scratching their heads or why pseudo-nationalists and patriots call for boycott of China-made goods, while the PM’s picture is used in an advertisement of digital wallet company that’s more than 40 per cent controlled by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba or was it correct to try rewrite science by saying a cow inhales and exhales oxygen or…many other such examples could have been taken up, but were not in favour of issues that were aimed at getting more eyeballs and create more noise.

Still to be fair to Goswami, he cannot be faulted for not being true to himself and believing in a philosophy that, he feels, should be the norm instead of being a rarity -- opinionated news instead of old school news shorn of opinions. The series of videos started hitting the social media platforms with the first one coming on 15 April where the star is sitting in his office with the voiceover ‘Dear Viewer’ setting the tone for the rest of the narrative.

Goswami has had his share of controversies too in the lead up to the launch of his news channel and its digital avatar. First, BJP MP Subramaniam Swamy questioned the use of the world ‘republic’ for commercial use, citing Indian laws and forcing the name to be changed to Republic TV from just being called Republic. Then, the star anchor’s previous employers, the Times TV Network challenged him for trying to poach personnel and cautioned him against using his pet phrase --- the nation wants to know -- claiming IPR over it.

Pointing out that he had received “another legal threat” from Times group, Goswami on social media took a high moral ground: “A media group has sent me a six-page letter threatening me with imprisonment if I ever use the phrase 'Nation Wants to Know.’ They say they own the phrase. I have watched the nervous antics of this media group with amusement and horror for the last few months. Today, I am replying to them. I say: The threat of imprisonment will not deter me. Bring your moneybags and your lawyers, file the criminal case against me for using the phrase (the) ‘Nation Wants to Know.’ Do everything you can, spend all the money you have and arrest me. I am waiting right now in my studio floor. Come, enforce your threat.”

In a recent interview with Indiantelevision.com, Goswami mentioned his company was facing problems in distributing the soon-to-be launched TV channel as some other news channels were allegedly offering MSOs and LCOs more commissions to not carry Republic TV on their distribution platforms. That the promoter of a big MSO, DEN Networks Ltd, along with his brother, is an investor in Goswami’s company gets failed to be highlighted by him.

Though such one-upmanship does resonate with his target audience, it raises other questions too. Questions like why he did not raise a storm when one of his main investors had sent a legal notice to an online news site and forced it to take down a news article on the investor and his investments in Goswami’s venture?

Some incumbent news channels and competitors of Goswami’s TV channel may not be saying it in so many words, but aren’t amused much. "We will not simply make noise. We will concentrate on good reporting, fact-checking and research,” said CNN News18 managing director Radhakrishnan Nair while speaking to Indiantelevision.com about the change in news presentations’ style in recent times.

But don’t for a minute think that Arnab’s marketing advisors are playing a mindless game. Though the English news viewership universe may not be very big -- according to BARC India, it’s approximately 1.5 per cent of the total TV viewership that has risen to 27.3 billion impressions as of Week 15 -- it does cater to the middle class viewers. All these teasers -- targeting 'soft’ targets or featuring not-so-serious-issues -- resonate widely with the target audience nowadays, bred on a staple diet of hyper-nationalism and on thoughts like a Congress-free country. Good or bad, such hype does create a buzz, apart from disruptions.

So keep tuned in for Arnab-ism on the small screen and on social media.

Also Read :

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