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Radhika and Prannoy Roy, founders of NDTV, are getting one of the world’s wealthiest men, Gautam Adani closer to taking over the media company. The BBC looks into what this means for TV news in India in the future.
Radhika Roy has said that she and her broadcaster husband Prannoy Roy started NDTV by “happy accident.”
In November 1988, the Roys started NDTV with one show, The World This Week, on the boring state-run channel Doordarshan. With no idea, it went from making a weekly world news show to becoming India’s first private news network that is on all the time.
After more than 30 years, the couple’s news channel is being sold. Gautam Adani, the third richest person in the world, will buy NDTV, which is in a media market that is one of the most volatile in the world.
Many people think that Mr. Adani, who is 60 years old and runs a port-to-energy conglomerate, is close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.
In March, Mr. Adani’s new business, AMG Media Networks Limited, bought a small share of digital business news company Quintillion. “The investment from Quintillion is too small to get Mr. Adani’s attention. So, does he have bigger plans? “wondered Mr. Bhaskar in his book.
Is NDTV a profitable investment?
With sales of about $51 million and a small profit of $10 million, NDTV might not be a good buy for Mr. Adani, whose sprawling group has a market value of $260 billion.
But India’s best-known network is NDTV, which was the first to use data to analyze votes and start a lot of tech and lifestyle shows on TV. It has a solid online presence today, with 35 million followers across all platforms.
People who don’t like the sale are more doubtful. Many people think NDTV is one of India’s few independent news networks. It has avoided the loud patriotism of many of its competitors. In a study by Oxford University and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 76% of the people who took part said that they trust the news on NDTV.
Concerns have been raised that Mr. Adani’s takeover of the paper will hurt its editorial integrity. Even though there are many kinds of media in India, independent journalism needs some work. This year, the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index put India at 150 out of 180 countries.
Experts say that the variety of media hides the fact that a small number of people own most of them. However, Reporters Without Borders says that three-quarters of the people who read Hindi share the same four daily newspapers. A $220 billion retail-to-refining conglomerate is owned by a billionaire named Mukesh Ambani. It also owns Network18, one of India’s biggest media companies. The money made by the companies owned by Mr. Adani and Mr. Ambani is equal to 4% of India’s GDP.
Challenges facing the Indian news space
A media expert named Vanita Kohli-Khandekar says that the takeover of NDTV is also a sign of the problems in the Indian news business. India has more than 400 news stations, most privately owned and broadcast in local languages. About 8% of the $423 million that TV ads made in 2021 went to news channels.
People don’t want to pay for news, so most of the money that news channels make comes from ads. Also, many people think that networks’ credibility has decreased because many have been accused of messing with ratings, “grotesque tabloidizing” the news, and giving biased coverage.
NDTV’s financial problems started more than a decade ago when it had to borrow $44 million from a company controlled by Mr. Ambani’s Reliance Industries to pay off old debts. “NDTV has fought hard and long, but it looks like it is losing the battle. It seems like a loss for the business of journalism, “says Ms. Kohli-Khandekar.
Time will tell if the editorial direction and tone of the network will change now that a different company owns it.