Continuation of 20 Million paycheck I Rank Borrowed Clip TimesNow Untold Story I
Six years on, Goswami’s nightly debate show, The Newshour, has become the cultural and economic centre of Times Now. “It’s the centre of the solar system,” a senior manager at the channel said. Discussions about Times Now are invariably discussions about Goswami, whose abrasive moderation every weeknight has inspired angst-ridden open letters, a stream of parodies, and even standup comedy routines. The Newshour runs anywhere between 60 and 120 minutes and, partly by dint of its variable length, attracts more viewers than competing shows with fixed slots at 9 pm. Its advertising rates are among the highest for prime time news television, at Rs 16,000 for a ten-second spot. And the show is so vital to the relevance and well-being of the network that “60 percent of the editorial resources are used for The Newshour”, the senior manager said. It pulls in 40 percent of the channel’s overall viewers, and a fifth of its Rs 1.5 billion annual revenue.
Goswami isn’t shy about letting staff know that his show pays their salaries—its advertising revenue, the senior manager told me, nearly covers the channel’s approximately Rs 340 million wage bill, including Goswami’s own Rs 20 million paycheck. As his name became a stand-in for the channel, Goswami could do as he wished. He exercised this right roughly, creating an organisation obsessed with breaking news and setting the agenda to the exclusion of everything else. From the inner pages of newspapers he plucked events scantly explored but rich with emotional resonance….
Goswami the Man.
‘When I called Goswami to request an interview for this story, he declined, saying that he was interested in reporting the news, not becoming it. Reasoning that he was just a regular newsman, he expressed surprise that anyone would pick him as a subject, and offered that I was welcome to come by his office for a cup of tea if I agreed not to write the story. Shortly after my call, according to two current Times Now employees, Goswami informed his staff in Mumbai and Delhi that a magazine was writing about him, and asked them not to cooperate with any interview requests—a plea his employees took as an order.
In private, Goswami had no doubt that his channel was no ordinary news organisation, and that he was no ordinary newsman. In a speech to the newsroom in 2011, which was recorded by a former reporter, Goswami made it clear he believed the channel’s place in history was already secure: “Can the history of India be written honestly without the contribution of Times Now to a new form of journalism in the era that we are in?” he said. “Think about it. Think about the bigger picture. I can tell you it can’t be written.”
The Panel Handling.
he only two benchmarks for prospective guests, the desk editor said, were that “both sides should speak flawless English, and should be extremely aggressive”. The show is meant to be partly debate, partly journalism, and partly—if Goswami has his way—a public confessional. But it is mostly an open-ended chunk of airtime from whose centre Goswami live-directs an intellectual reality show where dramatic things happen. Participants abuse other guests and the show’s host. People walk away, leaving empty windows behind.
As a matter of principle, The Newshour pits people and their extreme views against one another—but its main character is always Goswami. A typical episode finds him demanding answers, making accusations, riling up participants and passing judgment, venting the angst of a man upset by how far his country has fallen. His pronouncements are rooted in everyday frustrations: Why is Pakistan dithering? Why can’t Australians admit that they’re racist? Why is the government indifferent to the middle class? Who is responsible for all this?
“I think that a lot of people must realise that the editor-in-chief of Times Now is someone who has excelled himself at executing, to the T, the brief that was handed down by the management,” the former high-ranking editor said. “The brief was to be relevant on urbane issues to the urban viewer…
The activist and academic Madhu Kishwar, a frequent but exasperated guest, penned a widely-circulated open letter to Goswami, complaining that “panelists are expected to simply come and lend further strength to the anchor’s delusion that one hour of Newshour will rid India of all its ills”. The senior manager explained Goswami’s approach. “He feels TV is about drama. You have to stir something up or the audience will be lost. He sees his role as livening things up.”..
The Private view and the Public comment.
In his recent book Pax Indica, Shashi Tharoor, the former minister of state for external affairs, recalled sitting for “a lengthy interview at the Ministry of External Affairs with a particularly egregious TV anchor—famed for his hectoring rants on assorted peeves, mostly unsupported by either fact or reason”. Tharoor did not name the anchor, but the subject was “a crisis in Indian-Australian relations” that he blamed on “channels whipping up mass hysteria” over alleged racist attacks on Indians, a campaign Goswami had pounded for weeks on end. “The cameras stopped to change their tapes,” Tharoor wrote, “and in the ensuing break I asked him whether he was really serious about the kinds of things he was alleging on air. ‘How does it matter?’ he asked perfectly reasonably. ‘I’m playing the story this way, and I’m getting 45 percent in the TRPs. My two principal rivals are trying to be calm and moderate, and they’re at 13 percent and 11 percent.’”
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