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India set to become media capital of the world: Arnab Goswami

MUMBAI: India with the help of advanced technology, editorial sophistication and big global channels is on the verge of becoming the media capital of the world before the year 2020 and will take on BBC, CNN and other global channels.

“India is the only country where media can question any one on any subject including religion, the kind of journalism that we practice, the way we go overboard, boldness being shown by journalist across the nation, and bringing out the truth from lies is helping media become agent of social change. This will also help us become global media platform before 2020. That is my dream,” said celebrity journalist and Republic TV MD Arnab Goswami while speaking at an interactive session ‘News as an Agent of Change’ organised by FICCI Ladies Organisation’ in New Delhi on Friday.

“The Delhi city has helped me grow in my career as I have spent nine and a half years of my professional life in Delhi and always felt that it was not a city that supported pure merit. In 2000–01, I was about to leave this profession. I was frustrated as a reporter and journalist in Delhi since I felt I was a cog in the wheel. After shifting base to Mumbai, which was the best decision I ever made and which helped me do my kind of journalism, and what we do is possible for bringing in social change because I was physically separated from the centre of power of this country. This city has taught me the values of merit, independence and professionalism. I owe everything that I am today and everything that I can be, with your support, to Delhi and Mumbai city,” said Arnab.

“The television media has made politicians of this country accountable for their doings. We play a conscious role in being a force multiplier for social movements. Such was the case during the India Against Corruption movement, in which Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan came together. Today, when now media questions Kejriwal as a politician, people ask me, ‘Have you forgotten that you are the same people, who put Kejriwal on a pedestal?’ But I never supported Arvind Kejriwal. I supported the fight against corruption. Our support was for the Lokpal movement and not for a group that wanted to become a political party,” he said.

“It’s always a tough decision to take the path less travelled. Rival channels have always accused me of being over the top and presenting a dumbed-down version of the news. However, I am a firm believer in my form of journalism. We have created a form of journalism in our country which does not believe in the ‘underhand delivery’. I look upon us as new-age journalists. It is my responsibility to throw those in power a googly or bouncer once in a while.

“I never wanted to become a journalist, but then there are moments when I realise how journalism can change the lives of ordinary people,” he said.

There are people who allege that Times Now only focuses on sensational journalism. To which Arnab gave a brief account of his stint with NDTV as a young journalist.

“Appan Menon was my news editor and he wanted me to cover a story. The story was about a child who had fallen into an open manhole. I told him I didn’t want to do it since it is a small story. I wanted to cover foreign affairs and politics. Appan told me, ‘One day, Arnab, you will realise what a big mistake you made. The biggest story is that our country is the only country in the world where a child comes out of school and falls into a manhole that should have been covered by the government’. Appan died six months later, but that guilt stayed with me.”

Ten years later, the Times Group launched Times Now. Arnab said, “I am a great believer of the Almighty, who opens your eyes and makes you realise your mistakes. In 2006, a child in Kurukshetra fell into an open bore well. My news editor felt it was a Hindi news channel story. I asked myself, what is an English news channel story? Is it the Democratic and Republican vote share in Arkansas? Or a story about the Ministry of External Affairs? My heart went back to the mistake that I had made 10 years ago. I went to the office and told my people to forget everything else and do this story.”

Arnab shared another anecdote which he termed ‘as another mistake’ in his career. This incident happened when actor Sanjay Dutt was being transported from Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail to Pune’s Yerwada prison. “I sent my reporters and camerapersons to cover Sanjay Dutt’s story. While I was having my lunch, I got a phone call from someone in Bengaluru, who had been following my career and Times Now for a long time. He vowed never to watch my channel again. I was surprised and asked him why. He said that his best friend, Colonel Vasanth Venugopal, had died in a combat with terrorists on the border. But not a single news channel had bothered to cover the martyrdom of this man. I was shocked and apologised to him. Suddenly, the whole Sanjay Dutt drama looked puerile to me. I invited the man to come on my programme and he agreed.”

But Arnab was in for a surprise. Before he went live, he asked his producer if the guest was ready. His producer replied, “Yes, she is ready”. Arnab told him it was a man, who had called but his producer interrupted and said, “Col. Venugopal’s wife, Subhashini, has decided to come on your programme.”

Arnab recalled, “Here was a lady, who had cremated her husband four hours ago. What do I ask her? I started off by asking some opening questions. She spoke for 10 minutes from her heart – about her husband, about how proud she was of him and about her children. I immediately got a call from Col. JJ Singh, who was the Chief of Army Staff at that time. He asked me for the brave lady’s number. The incident changed my perspective of journalism forever.”