Indian billionaire Gautam Adani manages some of India’s most important infrastructure projects. Some say his success has to do with his friendship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Photo: Mint via Vijay Soneji/Getty Images
A financial tug-of-war between Asia’s richest man and an influential Indian TV news network has alarmed the decline of independent media in India, the world’s largest democracy. ringing.
This week, Gautam Adani, the world’s fourth richest man and India’s biggest infrastructure tycoon, announced that he had acquired nearly 30% of New Delhi Television (NDTV). He also proposed purchasing an additional 26% stake from the news network’s public shareholders. Meanwhile, NDTV said the takeover was made without the opinion or consent of the founders, calling it a “hostile takeover.”
Crucially, Adani is known to be a close associate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Media watchers are calling NDTV one of the last bastions of independent media. In this country, most media ownership is in the hands of a powerful and politically connected minority. Media censorship escalated under Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. In the past, NDTV has faced temporary bans and been accused of being anti-national for reporting news critical of the government. Critics say Adani, who is seen to have a net worth of $139.9 billion and whose success aligns directly with Modi’s policy goals, could have an impact on NDTV’s journalism.
On Thursday, NDTV tried to block Adani’s attempt to acquire a majority stake. Adani Enterprises announced on Friday that regulatory restrictions imposed by NDTV will not affect its attempt.
India’s media industry is one of the largest in the world with over 17,000 newspapers, 100,000 magazines and 178 TV news channels. Yet its journalistic landscape serves as a cautionary tale for authoritarian societies: India ranks her 150th on the Global Press Freedom Index, out of a list of 180 countries. According to one estimate, 108 journalists were attacked, six were killed and 13 media outlets were targeted by authorities for critical reporting last year.
“For years there has always been some degree of bias on TV channels, but since 2014 we have seen a sharp rise in bipartisanship in news reporting and debate,” said a media critic. said Manisha Pande, executive editor of the website. news laundrytold VICE World News.
Modi first became prime minister in 2014, and since then an aggressive crackdown on critical media coverage of the government has been documented in human rights reports. At the same time, many peddled a rosy picture of current events and fueled prejudiced sentiments against minorities in the country.
Pande, who analyzes Indian TV news, said NDTV stands out in this highly polarized sector. “If you take Modi’s speech, for example, a lot of news channels on her show how great that speech was,” she said. “NDTV will be an exception to scrutinize.” All of this could change after Adani’s acquisition, she added.
Last year, Adani gave critical press to journalist and author Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, claiming that the Modi government had tweaked rules for power projects in special economic zones, which benefited Adani. filed a defamation lawsuit. The impeachment order against Takurta is still in effect.
According to Reporters Without Borders research into media ownership, the majority of India’s major media outlets are controlled by individuals with political ties.
Similar concerns were raised in the past after Reliance, owned by Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani (another billionaire with close ties to Modi), bought the major media house in 2014.
Adani’s acquisition of NDTV highlights financial vulnerabilities in the news industry, experts say. Around the world, for decades, big media relied on corporate and political funding to sustain themselves. Because the news business is not profitable. The Indian government spends millions of dollars on advertising in newspapers, TV channels and web portals, including her NDTV.
The acquisition highlights financial woes since NDTV received a massive loan of over $50 million from a private lender in 2009. The agreement allowed private lenders to freely convert warrants into equity and deliver them to anyone they designated. The loan was reportedly funded by Ambani-owned Reliance. Speculation about the Adani acquisition has been circulating for over a year.
This year, Adani launched a media subsidiary, AMG Media Networks, and hired veteran journalist Sanjay Pugalia as CEO and Editor-in-Chief. Pugaria called his NDTV acquisition an “important milestone”.
“[AMG Media Networks] We aim to provide information and knowledge to Indian citizens, consumers and those with an interest in India,” he said in a statement. “He looks forward to strengthening NDTV’s leadership in news delivery.”
Deepak Shenoy, an industry expert who runs investment research firm Capitalmind, said the current takeover has taken a long time and calling it a “hostile takeover” ignores NDTV’s mistakes. . He added that the acquisition should serve as a lesson for media companies that have debts they can’t repay.
“Big companies will be aggressive for strategic gains, and there are lessons to be learned from over-leveraged media moguls,” he said. “When you use leverage, you have to bear the consequences.”
Follow Pallavi Pandir twitter.