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I have entered Hindi news to remove the teleprompter: Arnab Goswami

The Hindi News genre is set for disruption with the launch of Republic Bharat, the Hindi news channel of ARG Outlier Media-Asianet News Service. Helmed by Arnab Goswami, Republic Bharat will go live at 6 am tomorrow (February 2, 2019). Expectations are high, given that its sister English news channel, Republic TV, stormed into the English news space in May 2017 and has remained the top English news channel ever since its launch. 

Republic Bharat’s launch is preceded by a 360-degree campaign blitz across outdoor, TV, radio, print, social media, digital & mobile that has gained huge traction. The launch campaign will reach out to 150 million viewers of the HSM market. The pre-launch campaign digitally has already garnered over 1.1 billion Impressions in just a span of nine days. 

According to data from RW Promotions, Republic Bharat will be available in 3,098 networks, which is higher that Hindi News genre leader Aaj Tak, which is available in 3,078 networks. 

Ahead of Republic Bharat’s launch, Arnab Goswami, Managing Director, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Republic TV, spoke to Adgully on the crucial launch, the channel’s strategy, plans to grow the Hindi news genre, reaction from competitors and much more. 

How different will be Republic Bharat’s news presentation?
If you look at other news channels, each anchor has a script written by somebody else which they recite almost as if it is a hand down to them, so you see no energy or passion in their presentations. If you take away their teleprompter, then I assure you that 75 per cent of the 9 pm anchors in Hindi will not be able to present their bulletins! What is the fun of doing news if it does not come from the heart? I have entered Hindi news to remove the teleprompter and I request all the 9 pm anchors as a token to their seriousness in news to stop using their teleprompter in their 9 O’clock news. I throw this as a challenge. If they do not know how to do news by heart, they need to tell their audiences that they cannot do the news via a teleprompter. 

One line goes off the teleprompter, and they will stumble and stop. They don’t do debates because they do not do their research. I do not want to name anyone, but these are facts. There should be a massive campaign against teleprompters in Hindi news. I don’t use a teleprompter for two hours in my news. And in Hindi, too, I will not use a teleprompter. If I can do it in Hindi without a teleprompter, then I think the others can do it as well. 

In your channel promo you have said that you would deliver a new kind of news with a heart to the country. Could you elaborate on that?
The existing Hindi news channels have let down the viewers for almost two decades now. They have refused to do news; they have done everything except for news. They have told you how the world will end tomorrow, they have spread superstition, they have shown vulgar programmes, they have shown dance programmes and passed them on as news in order to get ratings. They have completely destroyed the credibility that the news channels are supposed to have. Republic Bharat has come to save the Hindi news genre from complete destruction, because if you continue to have this kind of a situation where you dilute the news to such extent, people will lose interest. 

What would be the DNA of Republic Bharat?
Our DNA is essentially news – in the way we are going to differentiate the news, present the news – what we are going to do is news. We will present it in a way that the news is best presented. Will we be able to maintain the high editorial quality like Republic TV English? Absolutely. Will it be smart and sound as straightforward as Republic TV? Yes. Will it be distributed with the same intensity like Republic TV? Yes, that will happen. So, I think success is guaranteed. 

How will Republic Bharat bridge the gap between Hindi news and English news?
The Hindi news channels have come to the conclusion that people don’t want to watch news in Hindi, and this is something that I don’t agree with. Hindi news viewers are strongly nationalistic and we are the channel today that is pro-nation in its approach. That is the reason why we are being welcomed in a big way by the Hindi audiences even before the launch. 

Why are you touting Bharat and India as two different words?
Bharat and India being different worlds is a game of words, but when you say Bharat today, you signify the heart and soul of India, and the soul of India among the people who speak not just English but all the other Indian languages. I consider English to be an Indian language and then there 22 other recognised languages in the country, Hindi is one of them. One day, I will be able to be broadcast in all the Indian languages; but when you go and reach 150 million people on day 1 through Republic Bharat, that is very exciting for me, because in my over two-decade long journey in television journalism I have not been able to reach this large an audience that I’m reaching with Republic Bharat. I often imagine about the impact that the stories we have here – for the audiences they are not just a source of news, but also an inspiration to change and an opportunity to change mindsets and the thinking of the nation towards a more positive direction. 

How do you see Republic Bharat cutting through the clutter?
I have been lucky that whenever we have launched a channel, the only reason I have clutter is because of the news. I have a very distinguished production and design team and everything is being done in-house, which has never happened before. When you look at the packaging and design of the entire channel, it is better than all global standards, so that is one very big differentiator and I would like to give full credit to our team. Content wise, as long as we are ahead of the news, we will be ahead of the rest, and we know how to be ahead of the news than any other existing Hindi news channel. 

What are your IPO plans at this point of time?
I am happy to tell you that Republic TV is cash positive, basis our strong editorial content, our depth of distribution and our strategic intent. I have no immediate plans of an IPO and I am not in need of additional funds neither am I looking for strategic investment at this particular point of time. 

For the future, I have a team of financial advisors and legal experts who advise me from time to time, but frankly, I have not had much time to meet them now. 

Is there any risk of cannibalisation from English to Hindi? Do you see any viewers shift from Hindi to English?
No. When we joined English, we increased the size of the genre by 71 per cent from then to now. I am pretty sure that with the deep efforts that we are making in editorial and distribution, the Hindi news genre will grow with Republic Bharat. We are not here to eat others. We are here to grow the genre and understand why channels that have been in the business for 18 years have gone to ASCI complaining that why are we saying that we are India’s No. 1 channel now in Hindi. Are they so scared of me that they have gone and filed complaints with the Advertising Standards Council of India? The fact of the matter is that they must not be scared of me. As I said, I am not there to eat them up. I am not here to compete with them. We have to grow the market and get hundreds and millions of additional people to watch Hindi news. 

With not much time for the Lok Sabha elections, is there a specific strategy that you have put in place?
Our strategy is that we are going to be the No. 1 news channel for the elections, because no Hindi viewer is going to watch channels who for 18 years, while claiming to be a news channel, have been showing only superstition, etc. Nobody will watch those channels which show vulgar dance shows and pass it off as news. When it comes to elections, people want top notch political reporting, technology and analysis. We have tie-ups with C Voter and Jann Ki Baat with Yashwan Deshmukh and Pradeep Bhandari. As of now, I have a team of 150 dedicated reporters. I have a presence in every part of the country. I have English and Hindi teams and gathered a strong base of 1,300 reporters across the country besides my own, which gives me reach that is incomparable. 

Hence, when the elections approach, people will be watching Republic TV English and Republic Bharat. 

What time do we get to see you on Republic Bharat?
I will come every day, much to the annoyance of other players in Hindi! I will come as much as I come on Republic TV English.

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