India’s most brash and controversial TV news anchor Arnab Goswami, renowned for his hectoring style, is about to launch a new channel and he’s unapologetic about what viewers should expect.
“I’m patriotic and nationalistic and so will the channel be,” the 43-year-old tells AFP in a mellow tone drastically different from his manner on-screen where he regularly shouts at guests.
Goswami — known simply in India as “Arnab”, such is his celebrity status — will launch “Republic TV” within the next fortnight, six months after quitting Times Now where he hosted a nightly news show.
The journalist is adored by many Indians for his jingoistic, anti-Pakistan views but is equally loathed by others, often on the left, who accuse him of noisily trumpeting a right-wing agenda.
Commentators also criticise him for promoting a biased approach to covering news, but Goswami is unrepentant, rejecting any notion that journalists’ reporting should be balanced and impartial.
“When a Pakistani terrorist group kills my soldier, I shall not try to look at it through this distilled lens of objectivity and say I must understand the perspective of the militant terrorist and call him a militant or a gunman,” he says.
“I would say he was a terrorist and he has killed my country’s soldier. If that violates a few rules of journalism then I would like to violate a few more rules of journalism. I don’t believe in this fake objectivity. I’m an Indian and I will be on the side of India.”
The Oxford University graduate started his career at the Kolkata-based Telegraph in 1994 before joining NDTV. In 2006 he help set up Times Now where he anchored “The Newshour” before leaving in November.
– ‘Fox News’ of India? –
Goswami has built up a team of around 300 full-time journalists and commercial staff in just four months at Republic TV’s shiny new newsroom and studio in central Mumbai.
He has big plans for his new venture. Goswami is confident of defeating what he calls the “Indian media cabal operating out of Delhi” by making Republic TV the most-watched English-language news channel in India. Then he will set his sights on media giants in the West.
“I believe that the hegemony of the Western media has to end,” says Goswami, wearing black-rimmed glasses.
“There has been too much of a Western dominance over English news media in the world. In the course of the next three or four years I am certain that I will correct it and I think the challenge to organisations like the BBC or CNN can only come from a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, vibrant, growing democracy like India.”
Goswami criticised Western media coverage of Donald Trump, saying it was “almost embarrassing” to see some American media outlets “fight a battle” with the US president. But he denied claims he wants to make Republic TV the “Fox News of India”.
“It’s the losers in the Indian media market who call us the ‘Fox News’. I’ve never seen Fox News so I don’t seek any inspiration from it.”
Goswami’s shows are high-decibel affairs, usually featuring half a dozen panellists on the screen, all trying to get a word in at the same time as the anchor barks questions.
– Catchphrase –
“I shout because in India if you don’t shout you’re not going to be heard,” he said, describing more sober news shows as “boring”.
“I would request all the Western audiences to loosen up, roll up their sleeves, have a cup of coffee and wake up when they’re doing the news because some of the news channels abroad put me to sleep,” Goswami added.
He insists he will continue to use the catchphrase “nation wants to know” despite his previous employer filing a legal notice against him trying to stop him from doing so, claiming it is their intellectual property.
Detractors say Republic TV has the backing of investors sympathetic to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party but Goswami insists he has no party political interest.
He supported the government’s decision to scrap high-denomination banknotes, its fight for a single goods and services tax and surgical strikes on Pakistan but wants it to be tougher on militants in Kashmir and Maoist insurgents.
Goswami describes himself as a “liberal nationalist”, saying he supports secularism, greater inclusion, has championed women and LGBT rights, and also questioned both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism.
“I just do whatever I think comes from the heart. I’m a person who shoots from the hip, I pull no punches, I will do nothing else,” he said.