Arnab Goswami’s Partisan outlook, a Paradox on Republic TV

A lot has been written/spoken about Mr Arnab Goswami, the face of Republic TV and his style of journalism that hinges on garnering TRP’s through his prime time debates, where the catch phrase “Nation wants to know” also emanated from.

I happened to watch the debate on Republic TV, the other day when India test fired the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile and the key conspirator of 26/11 Hafiz Saeed was also let off by the Pakistani court from the so called House arrest for lack of evidence in proving charges. That aptly called for lunging into Pakistan bashing by the supreme nationalist Arnab, accompanied by an able supporting cast comprising of an army veteran, an ex-Raw official and a strategic/defense analyst in his flank, up in arms against a few known faces from across the border, who as usual cannot give up the denial charade. In his inimitable style, he kept repeating “what a beautiful sight it is” referring to the file shots of the missile launch with the intention of rubbing it in and insinuating that its time India fires one at the neighbour for not mending their ways. Indeed, this indigenously built missile is a matter of pride for all Indians, but why does one have to impose our achievements on others and mock them at their shortcomings. Arnab has smoke billowing out of his ears while speaking of Pakistan’s misdemeanors and goes ballistic to list the entire inventory of weapons available at India’s disposal including newly acquired Rafael jets, indigenous missiles, Submarines and so on that could decimate Pakistan. In the process he sounds so desperate and questions as to how a tiny nation can provoke India, without realizing that answer to his rhetoric does not rest with Pakistan, rather it is India that needs to show intent and be seen as potent force. Why doesn’t he question the government of the day as to what is hindering them to launch an assault? The verbal diarrhea just brings about a wry smile on the face of Pakistani panelists, who instead, accuse him of being a war mongerer.

Arnab’s show-time has a scripted pattern and it kick starts with a long monologue censuring the neighbouring country by ascribing labels like “failed state”, “a harbinger of terrorism” and a country begging for alms from USA in exchange of false promises to fight terror n the AF-PAK region.

Soon after his heroic speech, the supporting cast is introduced and then questions that are as elaborate as comprehension passages are put to the panelist and he farcically seeks a response to them, reiterating, “he wants an answer” several times, without even giving a chance to the panelist to make an opening statement. Within a few seconds into the reply, the anchor starts butting in while the panelist is still continuing with his response, nodding head in disagreement to make an objection or if a crisp answer is forthcoming, he either pits that panelist against an Indian expert or steers the debate into a different direction.

The interjections could still be accepted as long they are valid and not a deliberate effort to derail the speakers train of thought. Then, a pandemonium is unleashed when the entire panel starts voicing their opinion in tandem and the debate is reduced to a cacophonous outburst. The master strategist that Arnab is, then in order to restore some semblance of sanity yells at everyone to keep their mouths shut and listen to his solo rant. By that time, the fervour among the panel to put their points across reaches a crescendo and failing to restrain them, the anchor completely muzzles their voice by bring down the fader. In a flash, he then winds up the debate by passing on a verdict which he had premeditated.

The most disconcerting aspect of his debates featuring Pakistani guests is the use of derogatory language to ridicule them that could drive any self respecting person to develop a revulsion against the anchor and perhaps also fuel further acrimony among the citizenry of two nations. I don’t deny that the facts put out by Arnab vis-a-vis Pakistan’s transgressions and their indulgence in exporting terror as a state policy, is nothing but the truth. But, by taking cudgels with insignificant Pakistani representatives on the panel and assuming to have blown the war bugle or rather having won the battle of supremacy in your channels news room, is a fallacy.

To quote from a very interesting post written by Raghu Raman on May 24, 2017, Quartz India (fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a columnist, author, former CEO of NATGRID, speaker, ex-soldier & UN Peacekeeper), “War waging is not about bombastic threats, surgical strikes, cross-border firing or clamorous bellowing on TV channels. That is called letting off steam. There is an old couplet by Ramdhari Dinkar which suggests that forgiveness befits a snake which has venom in its bite—not one which is weak, toothless, and harmless. To be taken seriously, India needs to build that strength first rather than spewing ineffectual rhetoric.” Arnab, you ought to read this post titled “For all the chest-thumping, India cannot win a war against Pakistan” before locking horns with the neighbours on Newshour debates for mere theatrics.

Remember, the moment when you addressed the coterie of trusted journalists while exiting Times Now where you famously said “The game has just the begun” and your statement “The hegemony of the western media has to end as it has ruined the balance of power that is required not just in politics, society but in media as well” in context of following cross border news, while participating in a debate with journalists from the West prior to the launch of Republic TV. You further went on to say that “Americans being most insular have complete dominance over the Global narrative in terms of news and your premonition that “India shall be the next media capital of the world to challenge that hegemony”.

Your insightful thoughts on foreign media, lofty promises of “providing a serious counter to BBC and CNN by creating a global media environment that is not located in Washington, New York or London”, certainly gave hope to your ardent followers that you would work towards redressing these issues after launching your channel “Republic TV” and set it apart from other Indian channels by catering to more of international coverage. But, what a let-down you have been. Rather than taking a global leap, the channel from the very inception got cocooned in digging up scams of hackneyed politician like Lalu, investigating the mysterious death of Shashi Tharoor’s wife which led to getting rebuked by the High court, land deals of Robert Vadra for being the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi and so on. The common thread here being, the only people you train your eyes on are all from opposition camps whilst turning a blind eye to the functioning of ruling regime, which is totally against the essence of conscientious media.

There is a blatant tilt towards the current dispensation at the centre in the tone, tenor and stance you take on your debates. A lot has transpired in the run up to the Gujrat assembly election 2017 that your media house could have dissected and brought to the fore. Issues like polarization of masses on the grounds of cultural identity, irresponsible allegations of Pakistan’s meddling in the elections, casting aspersions on the integrity of ex-prime minister, and other distinguished individuals including the Vice-President along with other high ranking Ex-Defence personnel, despicable language used and barbs made by Mr Modi during election rallies, to name a few could have been red-flagged and critiqued. But, you chose to only pick on Rahul Gandhi and the dwindling political fortune of Congress party.

Why do the temple visits by an opposition leader make the headlines on your channel rather than the crude personal attacks on opponents by none other than our premier or for that matter complete silence on the developmental agenda during the Gujarat campaign trail? Forget the media, even the election commission seems to have a soft corner for Mr Modi as far as flouting of election norms are concerned (remember the road show after the PM cast his vote).

Arnab, it was encouraging to hear you speak about the need to strike a balance of power by challenging the hegemony of the western media. But before embarking on that arduous journey, it would augur well to restore sense of neutrality on issues and adopt a centrist approach on your channel, to woo back your disenchanted followers. That would not only lend more credibility to Republic TV but also take the TRP’s through the roof.

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A Garland Worth Crores

Political debates on News channels are about vociferously defending a party’s stand point and taking pot shots at opponents. More often than not, they turn hostile with panelists trying to rebut each other simultaneously thus making the discussion a cacophonous outburst. The anchors being moderators too, have a tough time doing the balancing act in giving an equal participating opportunity to all speakers within restricted time span. Having to contend with influential, high ranking and eminent panel with bloated egos on the show makes it even more delicately poised. Probably, providence has a way of putting these anchors at ease once in a while by turning discussions hilarious. The recent DIG level investigation ordered by Mayawati to probe the alleged conspiracy hatched by congress, of letting loose a swarm of bees to attack her while addressing a BSP rally, was a complete laugh riot.

The subject itself was ludicrous and the guests left no stone unturned in making snide remarks at “Queen Bee”. Imagine the plight of DIG who had earlier investigated some high profile cases, was now being asked to probe the bee attack as if he would swoop down on them and shift the entire hive inside the prison cell. On a serious note, the officer is in a tangle to either frame some scapegoat as part of his investigation to pacify the chief minister or lose his job. That too, the culpability of igniting fire to make bees go berserk should lie with congress as they were most vehement in condemning the ostentatious display of wealth. It cannot get any more bizarre than this.

But there were those who put their astute brains to use in ascertaining the worth of the garland by diligent mathematical calculations. The estimates vacillated from several lakhs to twenty two crores. The television viewers though were spared the agony of having to bear with statisticians computing mean and variance of cash entwined in ten meter long garland. In hindsight, it would not be presumptuous to assume that bees had swapped their loyalty and were clamouring for wreath of currency notes around CM’s neck instead of Honey (Mayawati) itself.