If you haven’t read TOI-Story I recommend you do – Part-1 and Part-2. The Jains at TOI group have admitted that they are NOT in the business of news. They are in the business of advertising and PR. They learned from Sir Richard Branson that publicity is what sells and no publicity should ever be given free. And that is how “Paid news” was partly born in India. For years now, the front page of TOI is masked with a full-page ad sheet that is stuck to the paper and most people tear out the irritating thing before reading anything they want to. Giving front page coverage for major news that measures the pulse of the nation, public figures or celebrities pays far less. So TOI’s front-page is now an advertisement page. And a newspaper in India is statutorily obligated to cover only 33% of its total space with news items.
So if you understand the philosophy of the Jains – politics, ideology, nationalism and such things are secondary to money that flows from ads, entertainment, smut and sensationalism. Seriously, TOI carries blogs by that Radio Mirchi guy Prashant Panday and other garbage writers like Sagarika Ghose or Shobha De. You get the picture. Corruption is no stranger to TOI or their reporters either. Thus, you will find fake stories like “Rambo” or the recent death of an old man due to demonetisation at a non-existent ATM of HSBC in Mumbai. Everything Arnab Goswami did was fine as long as it did not affect any of TOI’s cash-cows.
When TimesNow started off in 2005 it was more a mix of everything. More like the redundant “Illustrated weekly of India” by TOI that died some 25 years ago. Then Arnab realised that drama, theatre and decibel means a lot. He learned this from the hate-mongers at NDTV. People don’t remember that Barkha Dutt’s “We the people” and Rajdeep Sardesai’s very noisy, bickering nonsense called “The big fight” were very noisy, bitchy shows. So Arnab did what he thought it best to beat his erstwhile colleagues at their own game. He turned TimesNow into a high-decibel show but with a passion and nationalism that was uncommon with his former colleagues. He added a good dose of entertainment and humour which is in keeping with TOI’s basic business. He also treated politicians and political parties as “accused” with pompous statements like “nation wants to know”. The crowds just loved this. And soon Arnab would have a whole cricket or football team as panellists for all his debates.
The other thing that Arnab did well was Paki-bashing and his demonstrated contempt for Lutyens crawlers. Being the most watched English news channel for a long time also got him prized interviews like that with PM Modi in June this year. This too burned a lot of hearts. In October, this year news broke that Arnab had resigned from Timesnow. After 11 years! It shocked the news world and the audiences alike. His detractors must have thrown a party – especially burned hearts like Barkha, Rajdeep and others. Many reports indicated there was a problem the Jains had with Arnab’s increasing right-leaning conduct of debates and the reporting by the channel. But that is not entirely true.
Arnab has hounded Nitin Gadkari for 19 consecutive weeks over an imaginary scam and corruption that turned out to be false. He also hounded Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje over LalitGate as he called it. It compelled me to write “ArnabGate” because of the targeted hounding of these BJP members without genuine cause. ArnabGate trended at the top in India on Twitter and also worldwide. That must have upset the hashtag king that Arnab had become with his channel. Anyway, post the Uri terror attack in September there was uncontrollable anger against Pakistan in India. Pak and those “pseudo-liberals” (as Arnab called them) who were Pak stooges in India were dead meat for Arnab. And night after night for nearly a month he tore into them with all the swords and daggers at his command. The audience applauded. Arnab even got threats from terror-operators and had to be provided security by the GOI.
Arnab was also critical of Pak actors and those employing them in Bollywood for not speaking up against the terrorists and against Pakistan. In particular, Karan Johar and some of his Paki darlings in a movie were caught in the storm. Arnab and many in India (including me) demanded these Paki clowns should exit India if they do not condemn killing of our Jawans. This was a line that Arnab had crossed that would not be tolerated by Jains no matter what the cost. The kind of power Johar and his gang have over TOI should not be underestimated. And Vineet Jain let it be known too:
Why was it the end for Arnab? Because Bollywood is a BIG cash-cow for the Jains. And to antagonise that industry was very damaging. Let me explain. TOI has a certain set of Bollywood stars that it will NEVER write against. No criticism will ever be made, their worst movies will never be trashed. I am not giving you gossip. I am giving you the inside story of how TOI operates with Bollywood. Paid promotion of stars, paid promotion of movies, paid promotions on TV all adds up to a huge business that runs into hundreds of crores. Those glossy pages you see with TOI, often with Bollywood stars who also double up as product endorsers, means phenomenal money for them.
There are desk reporters in all branches of TOI who can ring up a top or low level star for an instant interview over phone to fill pages. These stars are like “empanelled stars” obligated to give interviews and TOI will always write positive stuff about them and in turn those stars will promote their movies through TOI’s media empire. And now TOI is present in all major film domains – Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai etc. I cannot put a finger to it but even a rough estimate of anywhere between 500-800 crores from Bollywood alone per year would not be a bad estimate. And no Arnab Goswami can stand in the way of that kind of money.
Other than that, TOI also has its Filmfare magazine. I don’t think the magazine sells all that much anymore but their Filmfare awards are prized by the film and acting community. The awards, the award function survives on enthusiastic participation by the film community. Without their support, it would flop. It is probable that many Bollywood hotshots would have called up Vineet Jain and complained about Arnab’s tirade against Bollywood. Maybe some even threatened consequences. And that was that. Arnab’s quitting Timesnow has nothing to do with news or his way of conducting debates or the political stands he takes. It doesn’t have anything to do with Pakistan or terrorists. It’s just simply – Bollywood and money for TOI.