Television, Radio, Cinema, Newspapers, Magazines and internet-based Websites and Portals are all various arms of the Indian Media – among the oldest in the world. Out of the 880 satellite TV channels, more than 380 are news channels, several among them relaying current affairs 24x7.
However, a large number of media outlets and the country’s rich culture and ethnicity do not translate into a variety of news supply. Ironically, the media ownership concentration indicates the opposite and a significant trend towards the control of content and public opinion.
Who Owns and Runs Indian Media?
There is a strong connection between media, business and politics. Most of the leading media companies are owned by large conglomerates which are controlled by founding families with a vast array of business interests other than media.
The last few weeks' news headlines have been bursting with consistent news of the hostile take-over of NDTV by the Adani Group. It seems to be a good place to begin delving into this seemingly bottomless pool of secretive allegiance of the media to its various counterparts.
New Delhi Television (NDTV)
The news channel has been openly biased towards the Congress and notoriously anti-BJP in the recent past. It was a majorly held company between a few individuals and corporate groups – Radhika Roy, Prannoy Roy, RRPR Private Holding Ltd. and Oswal Greentech Ltd. The murky ownership of NDTV goes deeper with Radhika Roy being the sister of Brinda Karat, a Rajya Sabha MP from CPI(M). Abhay Kumar Oswal, the owner of Oswal Greentech Ltd., is the father-in-law of Congress MP Naveen Jindal. Prannoy Roy is the first cousin of Arundhati Roy – erstwhile winner of the Booker Prize for her book ‘The God of Small Things.’
A little over a decade ago, Prannoy and Radhika Roy, borrowed approximately INR 403 crore from Vishvapradhan Commercial Pvt. Ltd. (VCPL), in exchange for warrants allowing them to acquire approximately 29% stake in the news group. The Adani Group acquired VCPL and exercised those rights. In accordance with Indian Regulations, the group put forth an open offer to purchase 26% more from existing shareholders, giving them an opportunity to exit. Adani Group stands to acquire more than a 55% stake in the popular news network, NDTV if the two-pronged strategy succeeds.
Network18 Media and Investments Limited
Formerly known as SGA Finance and Management Service and Network18 Fincap Limited, passed ownership a couple of times and also went through a restructuring and founded a subsidiary called Global Broadcast News (GBN). A series of losses between the years 2008 and 2010 with existing debts drained the company’s funds. In an effort to mitigate its financial losses, the company began restructuring and consolidating its assets. Their efforts proved futile as, after 2011, it faced possible financial collapse and loss of control for its managing director Raghav Bahl. By September 2011, the company had accumulated a debt of INR 1400 crores and was on the lookout for external financing to bail itself out. Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) entered into a partnership with Network18 and infused funds through Independent Media Trust.
Over the next couple of years, through a series of business dealings and manoeuvring, RIL succeeded in gaining total control over Network18 Media and Investments Ltd.
It is assumed, that the main reason behind RIL gaining control over Network18 was the network’s incessant coverage of Arvind Kejriwal and his allegations against RIL supremo, Mukesh Ambani over the irregularities in the pricing of natural gas in the Krishna-Godavari Basin. No charges were filed, however, and RIL denied the allegations vehemently.
Today, Reliance Industries Ltd., through Network18 Media and Investments Ltd., owns TV18 Broadcast, Web18 Software Services, Network18 Publishing and Capital18. Through subsidiaries and franchise licensing agreements, the Network18 group owns and operates news broadcasting networks of News18, ETV and CNBC India channels, Forbes India and Overdrive magazines, Moneycontrol and Firstpost websites.
Contrary to popular belief, Republic TV and Republic Bharat are both owned and run by ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd, allegedly funded by Rajeev Chandrashekhar. He is the Bhartiya Janta Party member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha and the vice-chairman of the Kerala Wing of the National Democratic Alliance. The general belief is that Republic TV and Republic Bharat are both owned by anchor Arnab Goswami.
This media news channel is owned by former Congress leader Venod Sharma’s son Karthikeya Sharma. Karthikeya Sharma is the brother of Manu Sharma who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Jessica Lal. Karthikeya Sharma is the owner of ITV Media group operating many news channels including News X.
The giant Times Group, owned by Bennett, Coleman and Company Limited, is one of the most powerful and influential media houses in the country. It owns Times of India, Navbharat Times, Mid-Day, Stardust, Femina, Vijaya Times, Vijaya Kannada and Times Now News Channel. A major share in the company is owned by an Italian Robertio Mindo, who is a close relative of Sonia Gandhi.
Why Do Media Monopolies Flourish?
The reason for the foray into the news space by large conglomerates is for the edge that it gives their companies. The acquisition of Network18 by RIL was one of the first corporate takeovers of a news media channel. With RIL’s deep interest in the energy sector, this move was considered a part of a trend of growing commodification of information, detrimental to the treatment of journalism as a public service.
The reason for these flourishing monopolies can be fairly laid at the door of non-existent laws and regulations that prevent:
- Horizontal monopolies specific to the media industry
- Cross-media ownership and vertical integration in the media
- Disclosure norms for media ownership
- Media monopolies not linked with a lack of freedom of speech
In the absence of strict laws, media in India is self-regulated by News Broadcasters Association and Indian Broadcasting Foundation which lays down guidelines, rather than rules.
The political affiliations of media channels prior to corporate takeovers have already travelled the path of misinformation, selective information and commodification of information. As one of the biggest media markets in the world, Indian media ownership and control in the hands of a few reflects its inability to report with objectivity and without bias. Be it political, business, religious or any other type of affiliations, journalism needs to be free and clear of such loyalties or biases to be truly a public service, working only for the public interest at large.
Which is the most-watched news channel in India?
According to Reuters Institute at Oxford University's latest report, NDTV 24X7 is the most-watched news channel in India.
Who is taking over NDTV?
AMG Media Networks, a subsidiary of Adani Group bought Vishvapradhan Commercial Pvt. Ltd. (VCPL) in exchange for warrants allowing them to acquire approximately 29% stake in NDTV. Adani Group has also announced an open offer to acquire a 26% additional stake in NDTV.
Which are the top news channel in India?
The top news channel in India are:
- India Today
- ABP Network
- Republic TV
- Times Now
- Aaj Tak