How Gautam Adani will run India’s leading news network NDTV | News Bharat


A survey found that NDTV is a highly trusted network

Radhika and Prannoy Roy, founders of India’s leading news network New Delhi Television (NDTV), have resigned as directors of their company, bringing a conglomerate led by Gautam Adani, one of the world’s richest men, closer to taking over the media giant. company. The BBC looks at what this means for the future of television news in India.

Radhika Roy once said that NDTV, which she co-founded with her broadcaster husband Prannoy Roy, was a “happy accident”.

The Roy family started NDTV with a single show The World This Week on the boring state-run Doordarshan in November 1988 with “no grand plan” in mind and “certainly no idea” that it would grow from producing a weekly world news show to India’s first private 24/7 news network and independent news channel.

More than three decades later, the couple’s news channel is changing hands. Gautam Adani, the world’s third richest man – behind Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – is set to buy NDTV in one of the world’s most turbulent media markets.

Mr Adani, a 60-year-old billionaire who runs a port-to-energy conglomerate, is seen by many as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. Frankly, his “connections with political and social leaders, of all kinds of party lines, made him acceptable to any government,” according to RN Bhaskar, author of a recently published biography of the tycoon.

In March, Mr. Adani’s new company AMG Media Networks Limited bought a minority stake in Quintillion, a digital business news company. “The Quintillion investment is too meager to warrant Mr. Adani’s attention. So, does he have bigger plans?” Mr. Bhaskar wondered in his book.

Gautam Adani

Gautam Adani, the world’s third-richest person, bought a small stake in a digital media company earlier this year

Now we know. With revenue of about $51 million and a modest profit of $10 million, NDTV may not be a bargain buy for Mr. Adani, whose growing group has a market capitalization of $260 billion.

But NDTV is India’s best-known network, pioneering data-driven voting analytics, morning shows and a slew of technology and lifestyle programming on TV. Today, he has a solid online presence with around 35 million followers across various platforms.

The Adani Group believes that NDTV is “the most appropriate broadcast and digital platform to deliver on our vision”. Mr. Adani offered some clues as to what the vision was. “Why can’t you support a media house to become independent and have a global footprint? India has none [outlet] compared to the Financial Times or Al Jazeera,” he told the Financial Times.

Critics of the sale are more skeptical. Many consider NDTV to be one of the few independent news networks in India that has stayed away from the blatant chauvinism of many of its peers. A survey by the University of Oxford and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that 76% of respondents trusted information from NDTV.

Mr Adani’s takeover raised concerns that it would damage its editorial integrity. Despite the variety of media choices, independent journalism in India is not looking good: the country fell to 150 out of 180 countries ranked in the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index this year, its lowest position ever. Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rejected the findings, saying the index adopted a methodology that was both “dubious and opaque”.

Prannoy Roy, co-founder and executive co-chairman of New Delhi Television (NDTV), poses for a profile picture during an interview at his office on March 14, 2014.

Prannoy Roy and his wife Radhika founded NDTV 34 years ago

The diversity of media also masks the concentration of ownership, experts say. Four dailies, for example, share three-quarters of the Hindi readership, according to Reporters Without Borders. Billionaire Mukesh Ambani, who owns a $220 billion retail-to-refining conglomerate, also controls Network18, one of India’s largest media companies. The companies owned by Mr Adani and Mr Ambani generate revenue equivalent to 4% of India’s GDP.

The NDTV takeover is also emblematic of the problems plaguing India’s news business, says Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, a media specialist. India has more than 400 news channels in a market that is mostly privately owned and in regional languages. News channels earned about 8% of the $423 million received from TV advertising in 2021.

“News is one of the toughest businesses anywhere,” says Ms Kohli-Khandekar. “In India, television news is one of the most unprofitable, politically dangerous and tricky businesses to work in.” Only “two to three companies” make money from time to time, she adds.

Since people are largely reluctant to pay for news, advertising accounts for the majority of the channels’ revenue. Many believe that trust in the networks has declined: many have been accused of playing with ratings and what one expert called “grotesque tabloidization” of the news and partisan coverage.

New Delhi Television (NDTV) office on March 14, 2014 in New Delhi, India.

NDTV pioneered many television news programs in India, including election analysis

NDTV’s own financial problems began during an economic downturn more than a decade ago, when it had to borrow $44 million from a company controlled by Mr. Ambani’s Reliance Industries to refinance existing debts. “NDTV fought long and hard and seems to be losing the battle. For the business of journalism, it looks like a defeat,” says Ms Kohli-Khandekar.

Time will tell if the network’s editorial content and reach will change under new ownership. At a time when television news is polarized, NDTV was “more left-of-center and doing stories critical of the government that most others wouldn’t buy,” says Shailesh Kapur of Ormax Media, a media consultancy. “Will they now soften their stance and move to a more neutral position because of the editorial restrictions?”

Mr Adani believes there is nothing to fear. “Independence means that if the government has done something wrong, you say it is wrong,” he told the Financial Times. “But at the same time, you have to have courage when the government does the right thing. You should say that too.”

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