Tag Archives: Arnab Goswami

Can the Indian media ask Modi tough questions?

Interviews of Narendra Modi are like city buses. There is not one for ages, and then two come along at the same time.

The first with the journalist-academic and undisguised Modi shill, Madhu Kishwar, for India News and NewsX; and the other for the Mukesh Ambani-owned ETV Rajasthan.

In the Indian Express, Shailaja Bajpai compares the Modi powwows with Rahul Gandhi‘s faceoff with Arnab Goswami for Times Now:

“The media is either unwilling or unable to ask Modi penetrative questions. In these two interviews, he swatted away softball questions with a hard bat. Perhaps he only agreed to be interviewed on condition that he not be asked uncomfortable questions.

“If you compare this interview with Rahul’s on Times Now, the contrast is stark: Rahul was asked at least some hard-hitting questions, cornered on issues like the 1984 Sikh riots, although he was allowed to have his say on his pet themes.

“In Modi’s case, he simply had his way throughout. Not once was anything he said challenged. It made for poor TV. If he continues to give soft interviews, they will be viewed as plugs for him — another strategy in the marketing of Modi.”

Read the full review: How Modi faced the nation

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Operation Rajnikant: starring Samir & Vineet Jain

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There are 12 media personalities in the Indian Express list of the most powerful Indians in 2014—“ie 100″—for 2014, but 10 of them are proprietors, only one is a journalist and the other is a former journalist.

As usual, the most interesting part of the prospective list are the factoids accompanying the profiles.

# 19, Mukesh Ambani, Network 18: Mumbai Indians player Dwayne Bravo calls him ‘Madam Boss’s husband’ (after Nita Ambani)

# 21, Jagan Mohan Reddy, Sakshi TV: He has a personal videographer who records every moment of his public life

# 38, Anil Ambani, Bloomberg TV: He has been a teetotaller except for one swig of champange at his wedding to Tina.

# 51, Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, The Times group: Last year, as part of their cost-cutting initiatives, they launched what they called Operation Rajnikant and Operation Dark Knight in which they set such impossible targets for employees that only a Rajnikant or a Dark Knight was likely to achieve them.

# 52, Mahendra Mohan Gupta and Sanjay Gupta, Dainik Jagran: Their annual chaat parties are a hit, something to look forward to.

# 56, Kumar Mangalam Birla, India Today group: He quit from the RBI central board to avoid conflict of interest with his banking license application.

# 68, Shobhana Bhartia, chairperson, Hindustan Times group: She speaks fluent Bengali and also reads the language. Every morning, a Bengali newspaper comes to her for her to read.

# 72, Aveek Sarkar, editor-in-chief, Ananda Bazaar Patrika group: Sarkar is a regular at the Wimbledon every year

# 80, Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief, Times Now: He is India’s most famous Assamese by a long way

# 87, Uday Shankar, CEO, Star TV: A JNU alumnus, he started as a journalist with Down to Earth magazine from CSE

Among the 27 exiting from the 2013 list are press council chairman Markandey Katju and Sun TV boss Kalanidhi Maran.

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The Indian Express power list

2012: N. Ram, Arnab Goswami crash out of power list

2011: Arnab Goswami edges out Barkha Dutt

2010: Arun Shourie more powerful than media pros

2009: 11 habits of highly successful media people

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Also read: 12 media barons worth 2,962, 530,000,000

10 media barons in India Today 2010 power list

26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

An A-list most A-listers don’t want to be a part of

Blogger breaks into Businessweek most powerful list

 

Shekhar Gupta storms into India Today power list

A Kannada paper breaks RG’s code of silence

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Even before he sat down last month with Kalpesh Yagnik of Dainik Bhaskar and Arnab Goswami of Times Now for one-on-one interviews, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had met Editors in Delhi off and on, more off than on.

These meetings were long, relaxed,  informal but strictly off the record.

Smart phones and cameras had to be deposited with the security guards before entering the venue, where on each chair lay a piece of cardboard with a pencil to take notes.

Attendees were free to report what was uttered without directly quoting Rahul Gandhi or suggesting that he was the source. So, “highly placed Congress sources said…” kind of stories were legion even if nothing earthshaking had been revealed.

The arrangement worked neatly in Delhi where the deference to power borders on stenographic servility.

Not so in the rest of the country.

As “The Candidate who doesn’t say he is The Candidate” goes around the country spearheading his party’s election campaign, his media meisters are enabling journalists from the  “regional” media to come face to face with Gandhi. And the results are not always to script.

In Karnataka, on Saturday, Rahul Gandhi met Bangalore’s editors informally “not for reporting“—and if Ajay Maken & Co expected stenographic servility in cyber-coolie capital, they were in for a surprise.

Kannada Prabha, the daily newspaper that mobile phone baron turned media baron Rajeev Chandrasekhar bought from the New Indian Express group, front-paged Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with the media, accompanied by a photograph shot with a cell phone.

Editor-in-Chief Vishweshwar Bhat recorded his impressions of the 45-minute meeting, with a three-deck headline saying it all: “It’s nice to see and hear Rahul’s words, but they are impractical. He is a good purchaser/ customer of his own ideas”.

On his Twitter account, Bhat wrote: “Rahul freely and excessively used the words, system and process. After 20, I lost and stopped the counting.”

And over a six-column story that spills on to page 8, Bhat provides his interpretation of all Gandhi said.

“When he repeatedly spoke of inner-party democracy, and the requirement for a new atmosphere, a new system and a new culture in the party, The Times of India‘s Washington correspondent Chidanand Rajghatta (who hails from Bangalore) said to Rahul:

“We have been hearing the same words, since the party’s Bombay national executive meeting, for the last 25 years. But the party has remained the same and the dinosaurs have survived.”

“For a moment, Rahul was stumped, and then said maybe Chidu shouldn’t have used the word ‘dinosaurs’.”

For the record, Rahul Gandhi held a similar interaction in Bhubaneshwar on February 9, which one participant described as “super-boring“.

Also read: Is “Modi Media” biased against Rahul Gandhi?

‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

Mani Shankar Aiyar launches into Arnab Goswami

Mani Shankar Aiyar launches into Arnab Goswami

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After a fiasco of an interview with Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, Mail Today reports that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will now go through “mock interview sessions” before further TV powwows to prevent further fiascos.

“The duration of future interviews will be around 30 to 45 minutes instead of 90 minutes as on Times Now. According to sources, this will focus Gandhi’s impact and would reduce the possibility of the exercise going off at a tangent.

“Senior Congress leaders will also guide the Congress vice-president on appropriate body language during interviews.

“Future interviews with Rahul will be based on broad themes related to political, social, economic and other relevant issues. Answers to possible questions related to these broad themes will be prepared in advance and given to Gandhi besides a detailed background briefing.

“The responses will be framed in such a way that they focus on Rahul’s political philosophy and Congress ideology, sources said.”

In the Indian Express, former Union minister and Rajiv Gandhi‘s speech-writer, Mani Shankar Aiyar questions the choice of Times Now for Rahul Gandhi’s arengetram on English TV:

“Why the most superficial anchor in English TV should have been chosen for Rahul Gandhi’s maiden interview is really for his media managers to explain. But every time Rahul attempted to drag the programme from banality to depth, the anchor stubbornly brought it back to the trivial and the episodic.

“This particular anchor has done more than all the other channels combined to dumb down the political discourse among the twittering classes. When I ask people why they watch him, the standard answer I get is, “Not for enlightenment, just for entertainment”. And that is really what the nation needs to know!

“So, it is hardly surprising that the interviewer bristled when Rahul gently suggested that he was being “superficial”. Of course, he was. It is not in this anchor’s nature to plumb the profound. I hope Rahul finds himself a more reflective anchor when he goes beyond the tiny English-speaking audience of that channel to the broad masses in Hindi and other Indian language.”

Grapic: courtesy Mail Today

External reading: 25 questions Rahul Gandhi has still not been asked*

* Disclosures apply

Arnab Goswami has done a fab job: Vineet Jain

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From left, Raj Nayak, Kapil Sibal, Vineet Jain, and Anurag Batra at the Impact person of the year event, in Bombay

Times group managing director Vineet Jain has been named person of the year by the industry journal Impact, from the exchange4media group.

In an accompanying interview, Jain junior answers a couple of key questions.

Talking to Ken Auletta of The New Yorker [last year], you said, “We are not in the newspaper business, we are in the advertising business… If you are editorially minded, you will make all the wrong decisions.” Do you think advertising carries the Times Group’s media products or content?

I wish to reiterate that we are in the advertising business and not in the business of selling news – and I’ll explain why. If we were in the business of selling news, then the cover price we charge readers should have made us profitable. Fact is, subscription price does not come even close to covering the cost of newsprint. As much as 90% of our revenues comes from advertising; effectively, therefore, our advertisers are cross-subsidizing our readers. Which is why I say advertising is at the core of our business model.

There is a whole debate about Arnab Goswami being a brand by himself, overpowering Times Now. Is that good or bad for the channel?

Times Now has dominant leadership now for over six years. Arnab Goswami has done an incredible job for Times Now, which has established itself as the ‘go-to-TV-channel’ for breaking news, big news and significant views. He is a courageous journalist and respected by viewers of Times Now. Further, the Times brand is what gives viewers the trust and belief in what he and his able team deliver 24 x7.

Photograph: courtesy The Times of India

Read the full interview: Vineet Jain

External reading: Why Uday Shankar should have won

Also read: An editor explains Arnab Goswami to an NRI

An Editor explains ‘Arnab Goswami’ to an NRI

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picture-20For most TV news consumers, Arnab Goswami is both a name and a phenomenon. But there are still large parts of the world to be conquered by Times Now‘s bulldog of an inquisitor.

B.V. Rao, editor of Governance Now, explains the name and the phenomenon to a childhood friend who lives in Canada.

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Dear Sharada

Sometime ago during a Googlegroup discussion you innocently asked: “But who is Arnab?”.

In India not knowing Arnab is against national interest. You are lucky you live in Canada. But if you don’t want to be deported on arrival on your next visit, you better pay attention to this complimentary crash course on the subject.

Arnab, as in Arnab Goswami, is India’s most-watched prime time news anchor and editor-in-chief of Times Now*. But designations don’t even begin to describe him or what he is famous for.

You must have heard about hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Arnab is also a storm, a news-storm that hits India every night via his show, the “Newshour”. Nobody is quite sure how, but somehow Arnab gets to know the questions that the “whole nation” wants answers for, or the sinners the nation wants hanged before midnight that night.

In effect then, Arnab speaks for a “billion-plus people” each time he takes centre-stage.

I can’t say for sure if he took this burden upon himself voluntarily or if his employers made it a contractual obligation. Whatever it is, the fact is that Arnab has come to relish asking the most “simple and direct” questions to the most dubious people demanding instant answers to complex problems because the “nation wants to know” and it wants to know “tonight” as in right now.

That’s how impatient India has become while you’ve been away, Sharada.

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The Newshour airs on weekdays from 9 pm and continues till Arnab’s pleasure lasts. Often the show stretches up to 10.50 pm. That’s actually “News hour-and-three-quarters-and-then-some” but I guess Arnab has not asked himself a “simple, direct” question: how many minutes make an hour?

That, or his primary school maths teacher is not his viewer. In which case it is safe to say Arnab speaks for a billion-plus minus one Indians.

You will see that at the altar of national interest it is not just the hour that is stretched.

About two decades ago, Dileep Padgaonkar was the editor of the Times of India owned by the Jains of Bennett & Coleman who also own Times Now. Padgaonkar had pompously proclaimed that he held the second most important job in the country after the prime minister’s.

Arnab hasn’t said it, but I think he disagrees with Padgaonkar on the pecking order:  it’s now the prime minister who holds the second most important job in the country.

Hence Arnab runs the show like he would run the country or like the prime minister should but doesn’t.

You see, Sharada, there’s an awful lot of stuff the nation wants to know by nightfall but our prime minister isn’t much of a talker. Arnab fills the need gap. He opens his show with a passionate agenda-setting preamble that spells out all the problems of the day and how he wishes to solve them. We gratefully receive this wisdom and call it Arnab’s Address to the Nation, a prime ministerial duty that has fallen on his broad shoulders because the real guy has abdicated it.

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Let me tell you this, however. Arnab is a very reluctant power-grabber. It is not his intent to upstage the prime minister or make him look silly.

He gives the prime minister an entire day to prove his worth and gets to work only at 9 pm when it is clear that the latter can’t handle stuff.

He then solves all outstanding national issues of the day in just one 110 minute-hour of feverish debates where he grills the skin off the back of everybody who dares to stand in the way of India’s national interest.

He is unrelenting in his pursuit of the truth and doesn’t give up unless everybody has agreed with him.

“I am worried”, “I am concerned”, “I won’t let you politicise”, “I don’t agree”, “you can’t get away….” are some of the phrases he uses to suggest he is in complete control and that endears him to a nation starved of decision-makers.

Arnab hates home work. He wants to settle everything here and now, tonight. As a result, in Arnab country, there is no trace of the policy paralysis that has grounded the prime minister in the real country. Here you get resolutions, decisions, orders, diktats, judgements, justice and denouements all in one place, one show, by one man.

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The only people paralysed are the subjects of his grilling and the bevy of experts he gathers around himself, not because he needs them, he doesn’t, but because it must feel awfully good to invite experts and out-talk them on national prime time.

Like confused baboons trapped in little boxes, the experts, who are neatly arranged around Arnab’s own imposing self in the centre of the screen, keep staring into nothingness most of the time.

Yes, you get the drift, Sharada, Arnab is the main dish here. The rest are just intellectual dips.

For most of their airtime the experts keep putting up their hands or calling out “Arnab….Arnab….” to indicate they want to make a point. Arnab is too engrossed in disagreeing with what he has not allowed them to say to care too much.

Some clever guests try to appeal to his Assamese roots by hailing “Ornob…Ornob”. He ignores them as well.

Nationalism, after all, is above parochialism. The cleverer among them have cracked the code: they just agree with Arnab in exchange for a little extra air time. These are usually the people who have paid close attention to Arnab’s Address to the Nation and picked up the right cues on what to say that will get them his benefaction.

It is tough to figure out why Arnab needs any experts at all because he knows the answers to all his questions. Times Now insiders say that more often than not he finds questions to the answers he already has. On his show, politicians can’t politicise, bureaucrats can’t beat around the bush, sportspersons can’t play games and lawyers can’t use legalese.

In fact anybody who is good at something can’t do what they are known to do, to the extent that even civil society can’t be civil, especially if it wants to get a word in sideways. Everybody has to be direct, honest, blunt and keep things simple because that is what the (one-man) nation wants.

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Corruption, political expediency, opportunism, forked tongues, doublespeak, dishonesty and hypocrisy, are red rags to Arnab. He takes them head-on with the help of his reporters who keep throwing up “documentary” evidence ever so often to expose scamsters.

Usually this is a thick sheaf of indistinguishable papers that Arnab holds up threateningly. It could be a bunch of used airline e-tickets for all we know, but since we don’t, he waves the sheaf confidently in the face of the enemies of the nation and it is generally assumed he’s got some incendiary stuff in there.

Arnab’s problem-solving repertoire is not restricted to national boundaries. In fact, he is at his best when dealing with nations that have evil designs on India. The patriot in Arnab is best aroused when he is dealing with that evil, failed, rogue nation called Pakistan.

He deals with Pakistan like no prime minister has ever been able to or decimates it like no Army has ever managed to. Each time a blade of grass bends to the breeze on the LoC, Arnab breathes fire at Pakistan for trying to sneak in terrorists into the country. He lines up a battery of serving and retired generals of Pakistan and conducts the verbal equivalent of a summary execution.

Yet, the same generals keep resurfacing on Arnab’s show each time he feels the urge to have a Pakistani or two for dinner. This causes much wonderment among Newshour hounds on the masochist streak that makes the Pakistani generals offer themselves up as bait repeatedly.

So, it is assumed the money must be good. But since Arnab insists that Pakistan is the way it is only because the generals have sold their country cheap, it is unlikely he is blowing his budget for this routine cross-border target practice. Of course, left to Arnab Pakistan would have existed only as the largest crater on earth since the meteors wiped out all life on the planet. Yes, he would have nuked it many times over by now.

The Times of India, the country’s oldest English newspaper and the mother brand from the Times Now stable runs Aman Ki Aasha (Hope for Peace), the widely-acclaimed campaign for ending India-Pakistan hostilities.

Just as Arnab doesn’t seem to know of this campaign, the Times of India seems quite oblivious of the fact that the last time there was absolute peace on the LoC was when Arnab took a two-week holiday in early September. It could be the marketing genius of the Times group to milk the issue from both ends or it could also be that their internal boundaries are not as porous as our LoC.

Apart from conducting war exercises against Pakistan, Arnab land is eyeball-to-eyeball with China, exposes the double standards of America in almost anything it does and highlights the hypocrisy of racist Australia which loves the education dollars from India but not the brown students who come along with.

His blood boils so much when an old Sikh is roughed up by a bunch of racist women in the UK that he almost gets the whole of Punjab to rise in revolt against the Indian government’s inaction–even though there is nothing it can do as the gentleman is a citizen of the said country–or builds a tide of emotional revulsion against “inhuman” Norway for snatching an infant from his Indian mother’s custody for alleged physical abuse.

I can go on and on, Sharada, but everything good must come to an end and so must my Arnab eulogy.

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So, in short and in conclusion, here’s what I have to say: Arnab is not just the editor-in-chief of Times Now. He’s India’s protector-in-chief. He is the guy who is keeping India safe while you are away on selfish pursuits. You are lucky you can get away by not knowing him.

For a billion-plus Indians,minus of course his maths teacher, that is not even a distant option. Because, truth told, Arnab is the best we have got!

B.V. Rao

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* Disclosures apply

Photographs: courtesy Unreal Times and Governance Now

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Also read: ‘Arnab Goswami is corrective to babalog media’

Three reasons Arnab Goswami should be PM

There’s a new ‘ism’ in town, it’s Arnabism

When Arnab Goswami was not his ‘usual self’

In the era of news at the speed of light, no “scoop” lasts more than the time it takes for an obese OB van to turn the corner.

On Friday, September 20, the Indian Express lead story on the activities of former army chief, Gen V.K. Singh‘s “rogue” outfit technical support division (TSD) threatened do dominate the discourse, but only for the weekend.

By Monday evening, the momentum had shifted to the Army’s dabbling in governmental activities, thanks to the general’s loquacious admissions on television after television channel.

Shailaja Bajpai writes in the Indian Express:

“When former army chief V.K. Singh appeared on Times Now, Monday night, you expected something to give. What you didn’t expect is the information he gave out: that the army routinely pays ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government to work for “stability”, as he put it, in the state.

“Now, it wasn’t at all clear, watching him, whether he had come prepared to say what he said or whether it had been prised out of him by some canny questioning, by Arnab Goswami.

“As Goswami asked pointed but leading questions, Singh became more and more expansive, more combative and, in the process, may have revealed more than he intended to — at least, that’s how it seemed from the distance of the TV screen.

“It was a perfect match-up: the general in his labyrinth after The Indian Express report on an army probe into the controversial Technical Support Division’s activities, and television’s prime inquisitor.

“For a change, Goswami was calm and razor sharp. Gone was his usual persona of a bully who hectored his guests, interrupted them at will and positioned himself as the nation’s conscience. Here, he employed his skills as a journalist to extract information from his guest. If only he, and other TV anchors, did this more frequently, television news would be a far better place to be — informative and interesting.”

Read the full article: Seizing the story

Also read: Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta & Gen V.K. Singh

Arnab Goswami is corrective to babalog media’

How a martyr’s wife changed Arnab Goswami‘s outlook