Amidst Adani's Takeover, Senior Journalist Ravish Kumar Resigns From NDTV

Kumar joined NDTV as a translator in 1996 and has been associated the company ever since.

New Delhi: Senior Hindi journalist and anchor Ravish Kumar, who hosted the widely lauded primetime show on NDTV India, announced on Wednesday (November 30) that he is resigning from the channel. His resignation “with immediate effect” came a day after Prannoy and Radhika Roy resigned as directors of RRPR Holding Private Limited, NDTV’s promoter company.

On November 22, the Adani group began the process of acquiring an additional 26% stake in the company by launching an open offer that ends on December 5.

In an internal email, NDTV president Suparna Singh told staffers that Kumar’s resignation was effective immediately.  “Few journalists have impacted people as much as Ravish did. This reflects in the immense feedback about him — in the ‘crowds he draws everywhere; in the prestigious awards and recognition he has received, within India and internationally. Ravish has been an integral part of NDTV for decades, his contribution has been immense, and we know he will be successful as he embarks on a new beginning,” the email said, according to the Indian Express.

Kumar joined NDTV as a translator in 1996 and has been associated the company ever since. His shows – Hum Log, Ravish ki Report, Des Ki Baat and Prime Time – have garnered widespread appreciation over the years. He has won the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award twice, as well as the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2019.

Kumar announced his resignation through a video on his YouTube channel, and said he would be posting more regularly on this channel going forward. In the video, Kumar refers to today’s age as ‘Bhasmayug’, when everything good about the profession of journalism is slowly being destroyed.

“There are many different channels in today’s India, going by different names, but they are all ‘godi media’. The ecosystem and atmosphere for journalism is being destroyed,” he continued.

“At this time, I don’t want to say anything about my organisation,” Kumar said. “Because when one is emotional, one is not objective. I have spent 26-27 years in NDTV. A journey like that has many ups and downs.”

Hope, Kumar says, lies not in institutions now but in the people, in movements like Shaheen Bagh and the farmers’ protest. “Today, some people think that society is entirely in their hands, that the people don’t have any value. By finishing the media, the opposition and the people are also being finished. But this won’t last forever. One day, when the people get worn out their hatred, then they will look for a new land, they will remember a certain journalist. You will make the road out of this hate. You have to make it.”

NDTV was founded in the 1980s, as the first independent news network in the country. Before that, state-run Doordarshan was the only TV news channel that had a large reach. Radhika Roy was the channel’s founder, and her husband Prannoy joined her soon after and became one of the faces of the channel.

As a long profile of the channel and its founders on The Caravan pointed out in 2015, the channel’s fortunes changed once the TV media landscape became more crowded. Many of the anchors and editors trained in NDTV branched out to launch their own channels. Towards the end of the 2000s, NDTV fired dozens of employees to try and cut costs. A number of financial transactions carried out by the Roys on NDTV’s behalf from the mid 2000s onwards have also been scrutinised by government agencies. RRPR – the holding company that the Roys have now resigned as directors of – was at the centre of many of these complicated transactions. Over the years, it became unclear how much financial control the Roys actually had over the company.

As The Wire has reported:

“In June 2008, NDTV raised a loan of Rs 540 crore from Indiabulls Financial Services Private Limited. While incurring the loan, the Roys pledged their shareholding in NDTV as security. Barely four months later in October 2008, the Roys took another loan of Rs 375 crore from ICICI Bank to pay off the earlier loan disbursed by Indiabulls Housing Finance. This loan was doled out at an eye-popping rate of 19% per annum, and the Roys encumbered their entire shareholding in NDTV to secure this loan. They also signed non-disposal undertakings with the bank.

In July 2009, the NDTV promoters, once again, took a loan of Rs 350 crore from VCPL in order to repay the loan taken from ICICI Bank. This loan was disbursed at zero interest rate. Subsequently, VCPL advanced Rs 350 crore to RRPR holdings, which, rightfully, paid off ICICI Bank.

Simultaneously, two call option agreements were executed between RRPR and VCPL, which gave it the right to purchase 1,63,05,404 shares or 26% stake in NDTV at a price of Rs 214.65 per share. VCPL also advanced another loan of Rs 53.85 crore to NDTV promoters.”

Newslaundry reported that the loan taken from VCPL had in turn been funded by Reliance. VCPL’s loan to RRPR came from Shinano Retail private limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance. VCPL later repaid the loan it had taken from Reliance, though NDTV had not repaid VCPL.

In August this year, the Adani group announced that it has purchased VPCL. The acquisition of VCPL clears the way for the Adani group to cement its control over NDTV. Many have suggested this is a big blow to the channel’s independence.