Reliance buyout Network 18 and get bad press

Reliance Industries Limited’s purchase of Network 18 for Rs 4,000 crore in May has, ironically, got pretty bad press, amid doubts of continued editorial independence.

This was further compounded by the resignation of the face of Network 18’s marque news property, CNN-IBN. Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, quit over the weekend. His emotional resignation letter included a parting shot at the new owners saying, “I must confess it’s not easy to leave a baby that one has helped create/build/grow and to leave such great colleagues. But I guess certain things in life are written in the stars. Editorial independence and integrity have been articles of faith in 26 years in journalism and maybe I am too old now to change!”

Rajdeep’s wife and anchor of a primetime night show called, “Face the People”, also quit saying, “At CNN-IBN, an incredible team of professionals brought total commitment and integrity to reporting the news. We put journalism first and because of that we became a trusted and much loved brand. A free fearless press is the infrastructure of democracy – without it the term "citizenship" is diminished indeed.”

There are concerns about what Reliance’s ownership means for media freedom. Many journalists believe that media ownership ought to be restricted and owners with other business interests should not be allowed to own media properties. Given Reliance’s highly diversified portfolio ranging from gas to telecom and the current on-going arbitration about raising natural gas prices – the media has raised serious questions about what kind of editorial freedom will be allowed for the Network 18 journalists.

The latest issue of Outlook magazine has already raised the question in a story called Big Ed in the Chair.

Picture Source: Outlook Magazine

The story says that although there are other corporate owners of media; the concerns about RIL are due to, “RIL’s well-known aggressive stance against media houses and publications that run counter to its business interests.”

Strong words and strong questions. It remains to be seen how RIL will handle this barrage of bad press and whether it will come out and reassure people about its views on editorial independence.

In today’s open world, the consumer is watching how corporate houses behave.

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