Republic TV launched in the first week of May last year, with an exposé about the relationship between the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and the gangster turned politician Mohammad Shahabuddin. The channel aired an audio clip of a telephone conversation that allegedly took place between the two while Shahabuddin was in jail. Yadav apparently took instructions from Shahabuddin on how the police should act in cases of violence in Siwan, from where Shahabuddin was elected to parliament four times.
The next day, Kapil Mishra, a former Aam Aadmi Party leader, claimed on the channel that he saw Satyendra Jain, a cabinet minister in the Delhi government, handing Rs 2 crore in cash to Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal. The day after that, Republic TV broadcast recorded conversations alleging that the body of Sunanda Pushkar, the deceased wife of the Congress politician Shashi Tharoor, was moved from one room to another in the Leela Palace hotel after her mysterious death. Tharoor filed a defamation suit against the channel, and its co-founder and editor-in-chief, the television anchor Arnab Goswami. The Delhi High Court did not restrain the channel from airing news of Pushkar’s death, but directed it to send advance notice to Tharoor before airing any related story, and to respect his right to remain silent.
The stories were enough to draw eyeballs—the next week, the ratings-points numbers from the Broadcast Audience Research Council, or BARC—the industry body responsible for television-audience measurement in India—had the channel at top spot in the English-language news category. Republic TV had 2.11 million impressions in its debut week—52 percent of the total available in the category. (Each “impression” is an individual instance of viewing, even if a fleeting one.) In fact, by this metric, the channel had double the audience of its closest competitor—Goswami’s former employer, Times Now.