News broadcaster Republic plans to expand its digital offering to six languages by March, and has also had discussions on taking over news channels in non-Hindi, non-English languages in India, founder Arnab Goswami said in an interview today.
“I had thought that by the end of this financial year, we would do ten languages on digital. I took the place, we have the real estate, we hired all our studios, we have everything ready. We even have the funds to build it, but we could not build it because of COVID.
“The moment the restrictions open up, we are going to launch Hindi Bharat in a very big way, and then we’ll do six languages…so that by March 2021, Republic will be operating in six languages,” Goswami said in an interview with Anil Wanwari, founder and editor of media news portal IndianTelevision.Com.
He also said owners of several news channels in various languages have approached him to discuss a sale, and that these proposals too have been kept aside due to the pandemic.
“In broadcast, we are open to partnerships, we are open to ventures, we are open to mergers and acquisitions, we are open to controlling equity, management control..in key markets. Our business teams are exploring all options.
But he said he cannot float new channels without being physically present on location, pointing out that he shifted to Delhi for six months during the launch of Republic Bharat, the Hindi channel. “I am not in a position to execute broadcast. Broadcast requires physical presence.”
At the same time, he said there are several other proposals.
“There are some proposals which came to me to take majority control, or just under majority control, management control. We examined the proposals. We have kept it on hold because I need to consolidate in Hindi a little bit more. I need to launch in several languages ,but I am open to doing broadcast in languages also. Eventually, Republic has to be operating in six or ten languages. But we’ve had to slow down our plans because of COVID.”
Goswami, who has been in the news recently after an employee wrote a scathing, seven-page resignation letter, also said that he was now the ‘sole owner’ of his company.
He said a firm owned by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Rajya Sabha MP from Bangalore close to the BJP, used to own about 15% of his company, but most of his stake has been bought out by Arnab Goswami.
Goswami said Chandrasekhar now had only a 5-6% stake, and his vision had always been to operate an editor-controlled channel, and not one where the editor/journalist was controlled from behind the scenes from an investor or owner.
“If you have an instrument at the back, then remember that the person holding that instrument can use it at any time,” he said.
Republic TV zoomed to No.1 in television rating points soon after its launch in 2017, overtaking Times Now, a channel owned by the Times of India Group and where Goswami built up most of his journalistic career.
The group then launched Republic Bharat, a Hindi news channel, which has, in the last two weeks, emerged as the No.1 in the Hindi market beating Aaj Tak and becoming India’s most watched news channel.
Arnab also rejected accusations that he was ‘corrupting’ the news industry with his ‘sensationalist’ approach. He pointed out that his Hindi news channel does not carry the regular assortment of entertainment-based shows, such as programs based on TV serials, to drive viewership.
“I am cleansing TV news,” he said, adding that he has proven that it is possible to run a Hindi news channel without the regular assortment of stuff that is considered mandatory for success, such as ‘Saas Bahu Aur Saaziz’.