Day two of FICCI Frames 2014 saw Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief, Times Now, addressing attendees of the annual media and entertainment convention. The session was anchored by Jon Sopel, senior anchor, BBC Global News, and the focus was on ‘The Electronic News Media: On Fine Balance?’
Citing rapid emergence of ‘new media’ and reluctance of some ‘old media practitioners’ to evolve, Goswami said, “For all critics who don’t agree with the new media and are constantly trying to get us back to the old ways of doing things, I’d like to say, the television news industry has changed forever. So please stop trying.”
Expressing disapproval with the current state of media, he said, “Media does not work as a voice of the people anymore but like a gazetteer of India, with profile of politicians, red ribbon cuttings, meeting important people in important places... a media that has marginalised the voice of the people it was supposed to represent. We reject that media. That media is redundant. That media does not have the right to exist. The only media that deserves to exist is the media that genuinely, passionately and honestly expresses the voice of the people. I’ll leave you with some cardinal principles of new media because I stand before you here as a representative of the new media. All those people who represent the old media and the old way of doing things are refusing to realise that this country has moved on.”
Goswami listed the following as ‘cardinal principles for new media’:
- “Stay more than an arm’s length from a politician.
- “Politicians will always be touchy. Take them on. But do it relentlessly and on a daily basis. You can’t scream and shout at a politician for answers one day and go have a glass of wine with them the next. There is no alternative .You can’t have one view in public and a different view in private.
- “Don’t be embarrassed about opinions because having an opinion is extremely important. I was a 20 year-old reporter when I entered this industry and the first thing I was told was to never give my opinion. I was told that the day you give your point of view will be the day from which you’ll be a compromised journalist. But it is important to have an opinion without prejudice.
- “The story is no longer about the politician. TV storytelling has changed. Some people do movies like Peepli Live and they caricature media. I feel sorry for them as they don’t understand news or the journalism we practice; nor do they have passion for the country.
- “News is a form of social content. Long before India Against Corruption (IAC) existed, the scams started getting reported one full year before individuals like Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejrwal came into the picture. They didn’t invent the fight against corruption. As far as media is concerned, we are not agents of change but we are a tremendous social unifier. The entire business of talking and thinking and healthy opinion without prejudice is, in my view, one of the small things we do towards changing this country.”
On the future of electronic media in India, the speaker said, “From this country in the next five or six years will emerge a channel so great, so technologically potent, so editorially confident, so slick in production and so wide in its appeal, that it will give the BBC and the CNN a solid run for their money.”
On being asked by Sopel about interviews that may haunt him for having gotten the tone or the questions wrong, Goswami said, “Yes, there are such interviews. There is the Raj Thackeray interview. I could’ve done that better. It was probably because of the language in which we conducted the interview. But tone and tonality? Of course, you always tend to look back. In hindsight, I think I could’ve done better with the Rahul (Gandhi) interview.”
Asked about Times Now allegedly ‘going easy’ on its coverage of some political parties, he responded, “No single channel has taken on the Congress and BJP as hard as we have. Having said that, I’m surprised we got the Rahul Gandhi interview at all.”
“I will be deeply unhappy if I fail to get a Narendra Modi interview before the elections. I hope Mr Modi will also feel that way,” he quipped.
On flagship show Newshour, Goswami was asked if the show has led him to becoming a spectacle in himself. He countered, “People are not foolish. People who come on my show are not foolish. I do my job very passionately and I’m not self conscious about it. Nor should anybody who does it that way be.”