For a very large audience mass, former Times Now & ET Now Editor-in-Chief, Arnab Goswami’s path to pursue an independent media approach is an exciting one – not only from a journalism standpoint but also for the role that India can play in the global news industry. Goswami and his team are working round the clock to make their newly launched venture, Republic, a reality, battling with various initial challenges. In a conversation with BW Businessworld, Goswami sheds light on some of these, and the areas that will continue to be of top priority to Republic.
Excerpts of the interview:
Turning entrepreneur is never easy. What has been your experience so far, in launching an independent media platform?
We had pushed our own form of journalism, one that cannot be owned by any corporate interest. Our brand of journalism not only appeals to the people of this country, but is also distinctive enough to stand out. I realized that this powerful form of journalism has to branch out on its own and seek independence. We need to institutionalize this form of journalism to bring accountability. Republic will be a completely free, independent venture, where we evangelize this brand of feisty, aggressive, direct and confrontational journalism.
But at the end of the day, every media house is also running a business. How will you stay the course?
I find staying the course easy if you are not compromised. If you are dependent on advertising from political parties, or have taken favors from them including material favors such as cash or land, then you cannot even pretend to be independent. Today, in a digital world, even TV is democratized – if you have great content, you will win.
The opportunities from digital are aplenty, but winning with just great content is still not as easy as that, especially in the mass media sector. Would you not agree?
Republic is a people’s brand. Millions of people across India want Republic to launch, and it will. I know the dirty tricks department of a media group is looking at creating smear campaigns, and employing devious and unethical ways to stop Republic. Let them do it, we will do news. Let them bring out their threats, we will bring out content. Let them intimidate independent journalists, we will follow stories. I am delighted that one big media group is going overtime in their dirty tricks because in doing so, they have accepted that they have lost even before Republic is launched. They are insecure and paranoid.
And how are you dealing with this?
These people should know that over the last two decades, the biggest scamsters, terrorist groups and mafia in the country, have not been able to stop me. So, to this media group, I say, bring it on. The people of this country are with me. Money and terror tactics will only expose those who use it. If they have the guts, let them come out and identify themselves – I will fight them on TV, on digital and on every platform there is, and I will fight them from among the people.
Republic belongs to everyone. People of this country, like me, will not be cowed down by anyone. I am seeking the support of the people of India, so if and when these people who call themselves media come out in public and reveal themselves, at that time, the people of India will remember these words and they will defeat money and every dirty trick.
With this intention, I am announcing the launch of Republic as an independent media platform that is owned, controlled, run, managed, evangelized and curated by independent media professionals.
Has any of this slowed you down? When do you expect to launch?
We have not slowed down but we will launch when we are ready. I am very motivated when I see this happening on the other side, because it tells me that I was correct in thinking that independent media must grow on its own. And I would call out to all journalists, who are being threatened, to not be afraid and fight back collectively. I hear horror stories of business executives influencing editorial decisions, trying to intimidate young journalists with threats of lawyers. This is all reflective of the increasing insecurity about the first independent news platform in India. All I say is that instead of wasting time on all this, such media houses should, for once, focus on news. Because, neither me nor my team will be intimidated by smear campaigns or violence of any form.
Let me circle back on surviving in long run. As an independent media platform, how will you ensure you sustain yourself?
Viewership follows belief, trust and credibility. These cannot be bought, more so in the digital age. I know of business executives calling for meetings to buy over distribution and TRPs. They are saying this because they know they are about to lose, and they are afraid of losing. They are convincing themselves that they can spend their way to viewership, which they cannot.
What we have done in journalism in the last decade, has won the trust of the people, and something that misses that, will not have viewership, credibility, respect or even commercial support. History will judge that we are correct in this. A large part of our constituency is the youth that believes in us. I recently spoke at colleges and universities in Jaipur and IIT Bombay, and it heartens me to see the public reception to Republic. The people of this country will teach a lesson to those media houses that specialise in nothing but dirty tricks.