Network 18 bossman, Raghav Bahl, receives some loaded questions from Sunil Jain of the Financial Express, in an interaction with journalists of the The Indian Express group:
Sunil Jain: The SEBI chief [M. Damodaran] once spoke of “anchor-investors”. Also, how do you justify your getting into private treaties?
Raghav Bahl: On “anchor-investors”, I never quite understood what Damodaran was saying. It is easy to accuse. I went to the SEBI chairman and said, “If there an iota of evidence, please give it to me in confidence. I assure you action will be taken.” But there was nothing. No evidence.
On paid news, a business journalist is under suspicion ab initio. This is what I have learnt in 20 years. Because when you say something is good, the first inference is that this guy is on the take. It is a cross that a business journalist carries. But I don’t think that is true.
At the end of the day, in my experience of 20 years, I don’t think anybody has ever produced anything tangible against any of our journalists. Errors, yes, they certainly happen. Do you get setup by somebody? Yes, you do. You can make a mistake but you correct it quickly.
Coming to private treaties, we did treaties of the value of Rs 30 to 40 crore. That’s all we did. We believe commercially, it is a loss-making model. Because 45 per cent of your non-cash revenues are out of your pocket on Day 1–in service tax and income tax. So we believe it is a loss-making model. We stopped it.
Sunil Jain: What about the ethics of it?
Raghav Bahl: Ethics can be compromised even without a treaties deal. Why will you do a treaty to compromise ethics? If you need to compromise ethics, why will you take your money in cheque, backed by 10 pages of an agreement? So I do not buy the ethics point at all. It’s a revenue earning mechanism, but is an extremely inefficient mechanism. I think it is a legitimate use of your editorial position.
Sunil Jain: How do you justify CNBC walking out of interviews if another channel gets them first?
Raghav Bahl: I think it’s a legitimate use of your editorial position. Don’t you do it? If the prime minister is giving you an appointment, won’t you want it first? It is a legitimate effort by a journalist to get it first.
Also read: What Raghav Bahl could learn from Samir Jain