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Arnab Goswami calls NBA ‘a cabal of a few broadcasters’, bats for an independent TV news body
MUMBAI: Fresh from his victory against established news channels, Republic TV founder and editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami lambasted the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) calling it ‘toothless’ and a ‘cabal of a few broadcasters’.
Arnab also stated that there is a need to set up a new body to protect the interests of media owners and journalists as the NBA has lost its respect and credibility.
“NBA has lost its stature and it has lost its respect. It is a toothless organisation that has become a cabal of two or three companies who want to use it for their personal interest. This kind of an organisation has no relevance in India anymore,” Arnab said launching into a tirade against NBA.
He further added, “There is a great need for a Centre for Independent Journalists that represents the interest of media owners and media professionals. Many people have asked me to do that, and I do intend to work in that direction.”
Arnab also defended the availability of Republic TV on multiple frequencies arguing that it is free to air (FTA) and any cable operator can put it anywhere. He challenged his competitors to match Republic TV’s viewership share with multiple frequencies.
The Republic TV chief also alleged that NBA office bearers are more interested in protecting their corporate interest rather than the interest of the news industry.
Arnab pointed out that India Today Group CEO Ashish Bagga is also the president of NBA while Times Network MD and CEO MK Anand is the VP. India Today TV and Times Now have borne the maximum brunt of Republic TV’s viewership success, he said.
“We are a free unencrypted channel so people can carry our channel anywhere they want to. It’s a desperate measure by NBA and there is a genuine conflict of interest between the office bearers of NBA and their corporate roles. The head of NBA is CEO of India Today Group while the Times Network CEO is VP of NBA. They are the most affected by our ratings, and it raises a serious issue of conflict of interest,” Arnab alleged.
He also questioned the NBA as to why it didn’t file complaints with TRAI and BARC when Times Network and India Today TV resorted to dual frequencies. He said that TRAI has not sent any official communication to them on the NBA complaint.
“We have not got any independent communication from TRAI yet. TRAI should investigate the dual frequencies used by India Today Group presently and in the past. They had used dual frequencies when they had re-branded their channel. There were complaints against them as well. At that time, NBA didn’t demand ratings not to be disclosed,” he stated.
Noting that dual frequencies have been used as marketing tools, Arnab said that the matter doesn’t come under jurisdiction of TRAI.
Arnab’s outburst came in the backdrop of the NBA complaining to TRAI against Republic TV for allegedly using dual frequencies on several cable TV networks to ratchet up viewership.
The apex body of news channels then followed up by asking BARC India to stop the release of Republic TV’s viewership numbers until the channel stopped using multiple LCNs, contending that not doing so will set a wrong precedent in the industry.
Paying no heed to NBA’s complaint, BARC went ahead and released the ratings for the channel, which has created history of sorts by becoming No. 1 channel with almost double the viewership share of its nearest competitor Times Now.
Some English news channels have removed watermarks from their content as a mark of protest against BARC. Without watermarks, BARC cannot measure viewership of any channel.
Undeterred by the fuss around his channel, Arnab said that his single-minded focus is to put out good content. He attributed the success of his channel to exclusive stories that they put out whether it was Lalu Prasad Yadav tapes or Sunanda Pushkar death.
“We have broken some great stories that is why we are successful. The beauty of our viewership is that it has been an even ratings distribution since we were breaking stories during the day. While the overall viewership share is at 50 per cent in prime-time the same goes to 60 per cent,” Arnab explained.
Republic TV distribution head Priya Mukherjee said that the viewership has come from unconventional markets like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. Mukherjee said that the channel has distribution with all major platforms save Sun Direct and SCV in Chennai. It’s also available on state-owned Arasu Cable.
She said that distribution has been more than forthcoming, which helped the channel to save on carriage fee payout.
“We went to the market as a start-up. We have got a lot of support from the market. They have gone out of the way to accommodate us. We had to pay carriage but less than what others would have had to pay. A regular news channel would have to pay anywhere between Rs 35 and 40 crore,” Mukherjee stated.
Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani said that the viewership has been even across markets and target groups. The core market for the channel is South India, East India, Delhi and Mumbai.
He also said that the channel has signed 20 partners on a long-term basis between one and three years. A lot of youth brands have come on board as partners such as Ola, NestAway, Hike and Gionee.
“Selling ads was relatively easy because there was a benchmark. We have about 20 partners who have signed long-term deals. Some are one-year deals while in some cases it is three years,” he noted.
The channel’s inventory utilisation stands at 65–70 per cent while Arnab’s prime-time show is sold out.
According to Khanchandani, the English TV news ad market is pegged at Rs 650–700 crore.
Republic will launch new programs like the weekend show ‘Patriot with Major Gaurav Arya’ and Anupam Kher’s show ‘People’. Another IP will be Arnab’s interview show ‘The Nation Wants to Know’.
Defending the name of the show, Khanchandani said that ‘The Nation Wants to Know’ is a phrase that anyone can own.