Ever the news itself, Republic TV recently hit the headlines after Arnab Goswami, its owner and star anchor, was arrested by the Maharashtra Police, in early November. Goswami was arrested in connection to businessman Anvay Naik’s death by suicide. Naik had named Goswami in his suicide note, writing that the Republic TV head owed him money. Goswami remained in custody for eight days. The Supreme Court of India, which dealt with his case in record speed, directed that he be released on interim bail.
Goswami’s arrest sparked reactions from across the political spectrum. Among the more surprising reactions were public comments by many members of the Narendra Modi cabinet, who said that putting a journalist in jail was an attack on freedom of expression. (Far be it for the same politicians to pay attention to any other newspersons presently behind bars.) Others, many journalists among them, refused to consider this arrest a crackdown on the media because they did not see Goswami as a member of the press. His particular style of self-proclaimed “nationalist” and partisan reporting, they argued, misled viewers in the name of journalism.
Whether or not one disagrees with this line of argument, the accusation of partisanship against Republic TV is undeniable. We studied all prime-time debates held since the channel was launched in May 2017, until April 2020, when we began the study—1,779 in all. Our conclusion was clear: Republic TV’s debates have been consistently biased in favour of the Modi government and its policies, as well as the ideology of the BJP. What’s worse, these debates have rarely featured some of the most pressing issues that impact Indians, such as the state of the economy, education or health. Instead, they have consisted mostly of attacks against the Opposition as well as any groups or persons that oppose the ruling government’s ideology.