Who owns CNN-IBN?
Network 18 is another behemoth.
Colors and MTV India. CNBC TV18 and CNN-IBN (now CNN-News 18). firstpost.com and moneycontrol.com. News18 India and IBN-Lokmat.
It is also owned by Reliance.
Raghav Bahl started Network 18 from scratch, starting out in 1993. It needs some believing, considering the above-mentioned holdings and their penetration into consumers’minds. So how is it that he left his own baby, nay, grown-up-and-full-of-dreams teenager in the hands of Reliance?
Some years back, losses across the varied business interests of the group had left it with a debt of close to Rs. 1,400 crore. Large debts needed large lenders. And thus, Raghav Bahl contacted Mukesh Ambani. As an in-depth report in The Mint says:
In early 2012, Mukesh Ambani’s RIL bought debentures in Network18’s promoter group companies, convertible into shares at any time within 10 years, infusing much-needed cash into Network18.
As a side note, this sounds familiar to the below:
The agreement gave VCPL the right to convert the loan into 99.99 percent of RRPR’s equity—effectively, complete ownership—not just during the period of the loan but even after—“at any time during the tenure of the Loan or thereafter without requiring any further act or deed on the part of the Lender.” Puzzlingly, this meant that regardless of repayment, VCPL could officially take over RRPR at any time it wanted. For all practical purposes, this was a sale of 29.18 percent of NDTV to VCPL—a greater share than the individual holdings of Radhika and Prannoy Roy.
This is from a superlative Caravan report highlighting the contours of the deal between Reliance and NDTV. Same modus operandi, apparently.
On May 29, Reliance announced that it would convert its debentures into shares, spending around Rs. 4,000 crore to take 100% control of the company. Thus, in 2014, the entire Network18 group passed into the hands of Reliance. This was followed by a large number of executives at the channel resigning; two of them were Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife, Sagarika Ghose. . In the latter’s farewell letter, there is (perhaps) a hint of why these two esteemed journalists chose to walk away.
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.
The words of John Tusa, the venerable former director general of BBC World Service come to me: “Journalists cannot become the outriders of authority…but the freedom we have is the freedom to be responsible.”
CNN-IBN was always free and responsible! That’s why it became such an incredible success, so beloved of viewers. We created magic and that magic touched millions of lives, and the magic will remain with each of us always!
Life goes on. One of the things Jio users might have noticed is the library of television content they have access to. Much of it has been made available due to this deal.
The news has, subtly, been affected too. For example, a news article on the controversial Reliance KG-D6 basin was debated and written about on every news website. Except firstpost.com. Guess why.
Even prior to the deal, the officials at Reliance were reaching out to CNN-IBN, asking them to discontinue coverage of Arvind Kejriwal and his allegations against Mukesh Ambani.
At this juncture, a call to Sardesai seemed like a good idea. After all, RIL indirectly owned Network18. “They wanted a complete blackout of Kejriwal and AAP,” said another Network18 official who was privy to the conversation but did not want to be identified. “Rajdeep refused, saying it was just not possible. He stood by the spirit of journalism. So they were miffed that the channel had not boycotted the AAP.”
Moral of the story: Next time you don’t like the news, don’t change the channel. Buy it.