The December issue of Caravan magazine has a 16-page cover story on how the Raghav Bahl founded Network 18 has taken a turn towards right-wing politics after its takeover by Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries.
Headlined ‘The Network Effect’ and written by Rahul Bhatia, who authored the Arnab Goswami profile last year, the article chronicles a number of instances to underline the group’s rightward lurch.
“Glancing at a sheet of paper he had arrived with, Jagannathan yelled: ‘You’re doing it wrong. Forbes is about the wealthy. It’s about right-wing politics. You guys are writing about development and poverty. If you guys don’t get it, I’m going to make sure that you do.”
# “Last year, CNBC TV18′s Vivian Fernandes, who co-wrote Raghav Bahl’s book, was despatched to interview Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. A person involved with the production of the interview recalled that Fernandes asked a difficult question about water conservation in Gujarat.
“Modi’s organisers had asked to see the questions before the interview, and demanded the water conservation question’s removal.
“When Fernandes sprung it on him anyway, Modi broke away from the camera and glared at a public relations executive in the room.
“‘Why is he talking like this?’ the person recalled Modi saying. ‘Are we not paying for this interview?’” The production crew realised that the interview was part of a promotion for Modi.”
# “In the weeks leading up to the group’s first Think India conference in April, Raghav Bahl told his management that he wanted to start a foundation called Think Right.
“CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai and deputy editor Sagarika Ghose, objected to the name, believing that it was certain to be misinterpreted. ‘they believed that ‘right’ would come to mean Hindutva, you know?’ a person involved in the discussions said.
# “‘There was a concerted effort to drive a large visible campaign to prop up Narendra Modi in the run-up to the Think India platform,’ former Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta said.
Each channel, publication and website had to carry promotional material of some kind. ‘They wanted a Modi cover story from Forbes India.’”
# At the group’s senior management getaway in Macau in early 2013, “the editors’ mood sank further when Raghav Bahl let the large gathering know he favoured Narendra Modi as India’s next prime minister.
“Until last year, Rajdeep was the most important person here. Now after Mr Ambani, Modi is the most important person.’”
“I spoke to the editor again in the middle of November. ‘It’s serious. They have started putting indirect pressure on editors to not criticise Narendra Modi,’ the editor said. ‘I think Think India was created to promote him.’”
# “Early on November 9, Rajdeep Sardesai travelled to Nagpur to meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Two senior editors in touch with Sardesai independently confirmed that Raghav Bahl had pressed him to meet Bhagwat and other RSS leaders.
“‘Raghav is keen on promoting right-of-centre policies. He believes Indians have enterprise in our blood,’ the person involved in the decision over the Think India foundation’s naming said.”
# “Network 18 is not alone in its rightward swing, but as Modi’s value in the attention econmy continues to rise, no one in English-language broadcasting has traded more on his appeal than CNN-IBN.
“For four days in October and November 2013, the Centre for Media Studies, an independent thinktank in Delhi, monitored the primetime political coverage of some major English news channels.
“Of the five they surveyed, CNN-IBN covered Modi for over 72 minutes, a greater duration than anyone else. At the same time, it covered Rahul Gandhi for approximately 18 minutes.”