Television

"The NBA is a toothless group," says Republic TV's Arnab Goswami

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MUMBAI: ?You are speaking to Arnab Goswami? his voice rose a few decibels as he chose to use a tactic that he has deployed on his TV debate shows time and again - in a bid to intimidate the one asking the question. The fact is that when Arnab is under the spotlight and he does not want to answer, he resorts to every trick in the book ? and out of it, to get out of an uncomfortable spot/question.

We are at the Republic TV office in central Mumbai and Arnab has invited you for a tete a tete. When Arnab invites you, you of course go. You expect a juicy quote/s or copy which will jump out of your pages and suck the reader into his soliloquy. Like he does during his debates where he cuts down the powers that be to size, and pumps up others to larger than life.

Before reaching the venue, one wondered if it were going to be a party and the spelling out of Republic TV?s strategy, going forward -- it was neither. Did he want to reply to Times Group through the media? Probably, yes. One was promised a one-on-one with the man, but for the second time in 10 days that did not happen; the entire trade journalists pack was in attendance, whom Arnab has chosen to give audience

Despite this, the bespectacled geek-looking-journalist-turned-news celebrity did not disappoint once again.

Arnab?s quick repartee to allegations of copyright theft and violation by Times Now is that Prema Sridevi had recorded the Lalu-Shahabuddin etc. conversations on her private phone during the period of employment with Times Now. His logic is that a reporter can cross over channels smoothly without having to stand scrutiny of copyright violation or unethical behaviour so long s/he is pursuing journalism.

On pointing out that a journalist is a nobody until s/he is associated with an accredited media house, Goswami diverted the topic to lack of courage in the rival channel -- Times Now to do stories/expose on the basis of the tapes they had.

"Did Times Now have an arrangement with Lalu or Shahabuddin?," he asked his voice booming. He claimed he was then under pressure from the Times management to refrain from exposing the neta-gangster nexus.

"My editorial independence was infringed upon (at Times Now)," he claimed while discarding Times Now's new plans (Mirrow Now), strategies and lack of good stories.

Playing victim to the T. He stated that: "They have sent me a legal notice not to use the name -- "Arnab Goswami's Newshour" on Republic TV -- I can show you the papers," which he did not. He said the group has not paid former Times (now Republic) journalists their pending salaries and provident fund.

"My team is being harassed," he says.

Arnab said that he was open and willing to have a joint press conference with Vineet Jain, wherein he may be forced to disclose some facts and practices at the Times Group.

On allegations that he resorted to alleged illegal distribution tactics to get the viewership spike for his channel, Arnab informed that Republic TV's viewership was evenly distributed throughout the country. "It was 40-45-50% throughout the day, and hiked to 60% during prime time," Goswami said.

Generally appreciative of his incredible team, Goswami especially lauded his distribution executive Priya Mukherjee, who now seems to be set for a significant promotion.

And he was very acerbic about the role that the News Broadcasters Association is playing today. The NBA had written to BARC India not to publish the new channel's data until it's cleared of wrongdoing on allegations of multiple feeds (LCNs).

Arnab, however, discounts the importance of the NBA, calling it a "cabal. It's a toothless body now used for lobbying and run by four or five people," he exclaimed. (At the time of the press conference he probably had no idea that the English TV news channel members of the NBA had taken a decision to back out of being monitored by BARC; leaving Republic TV as the only Indian English TV news channel being monitored for viewership. So this topic was not broached at all.)

Arnab , who doesn't even remember applying for membership, says. "I was the one who discussed with Harish Salve the draft of NBA rules and regulations during its formation," he says.

Refusing to be drawn into a pro-establishment discussion, he said Republic TV was the only media company whose shareholding pattern was in the public domain. Before the media persons could ask any more questions, Goswami left for his on-air session, promising to be back to take questions in between sessions. He did not return.

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