Network18

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) owned Network 18 has hired editorial director of the Economic Times Rahul Joshi as CEO of news and group editor-in-chief, according to a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange. Joshi’s appointment takes prominence as Network 18 is undergoing a shakeup following RIL  chairman Mukesh Ambani’s announcement in the annual general meeting for an integrated mobile and television newsroom which will provide content for Reliance Jio. This story was first reported by VCCircle.

A Business Standard report added that Network 18’s news website Firstpost is also undergoing a change in leadership as editor R Jagganathan is slated to retire in a few months. The company has hired veteran journalist B V Rao as editor, and Ajay Singh as the new executive editor. The report also added that Firstpost deputy executive editor Lakshmi Chaudhry left the organization earlier in July.

In January, Network18 appointed A P Parigi as its Group CEO. Parigi took over from B Saikumar who had quit the company along with Network18 group COO Ajay Chacko and Network18 group CFO RDS Bawa, just prior to the RIL acquisition in May 2014.

Prior to Network 18, Parigi was the Managing director and CEO of ENIL (Radio Mirchi). He was also serving as the Executive Vice Chairman of Times Innovative Media Limited (Times Out Of Home) and was an independent director at Times Global Broadcasting (Times Now) and Zoom Entertainment Network. Network18 says that Parigi also oversaw Times Group’s Internet businesses, specifically Times Internet & Times Business Solutions.

Other management changes

– In November 2014, Network18 had also appointed Hariharan Mahadevan as its CFO. It had also appointed Kshipra Jatana as the company manager. Former Zee Media CEO Alok Agrawal was also appointed as Network18 group COO, after he had joined Reliance Industries in May this year.

– Network18 Digital CEO Durga Raghunath had quit in July this year, while Moneycontrol CEO Joyson Thomas and IBNLive & CricketNext head Arunava Sinha had quit a month later.

– Lakshmi Narasimhan, former Network18 CEO who had moved to a corporate role after Durga Raghunath had taken over his role in April this year, had quit the company to join the big data firm Crayon Data to head its “mobile and data transformation” offering.

– Network18 founder Raghav Bahl had also resigned as the Managing Director in July, but continues as a non-executive director on the company board.

Editorial independence at Network 18

A report by The Caravan pointed out that editorial independence at Network 18 might be under a cloud which led to Lakshmi Chaudhry’s resignation. The story further adds that Firstpost editor R Jagganathan’s opinion post titled “GST, Land Bill on Hold: Modi May Have to Rethink Jaitley as Finance Minister” was pulled down from the website. The story was critical of finance minister’s policies and implementation of the GST and named him as an under performer in the Narendra Modi government.

On 2 August 2015, the article was removed from Firstpost. Jagannathan has also reproduced the piece on his personal blog Newsthink under the headline ‘The Modi Government’s Achilles’ Heel’.

The report further added that Jagannathan had a meeting with the board members of Network 18 three or four days after the story went live. “A diktat was issued in that meeting that from now on there will be no criticism of certain political leaders. The decision to pull the piece on Jaitley was a part of the same conversation,” Chaudhry was quoted in the report. Following the meeting Chaudhry resigned from her post.

Financials

The company reported a loss of Rs 1.15 crore for the quarter ended June 30, 2015, as opposed to a net profit of Rs 10.58 crore last quarter, and a loss of Rs 1021.87 crore in the same quarter last year.

The company’s total operational revenue stood at Rs 79.36 crore for the quarter, down 90.5% from Rs 841.4 crore last quarter and Rs 70.83 crores in the same quarter last year.

For the financial year ended March 31, 2015 (FY15), Network18 reported operational revenue of Rs 793.64 crore, down 74.6% from Rs 3,126.6 crore in the last quarter, and Rs 708.39 crore from the same quarter last year.

RIL offloading shares

In July, it was reported that RIL is looking to sell 3.25 crore shares of Network18 Media, which represents 3.10% of the equity capital of the company. The sale will bring down RIL’s shareholding to 75% and increase public shareholding to 25%, as is mandated by Clause 40A of the Securities Contract (Regulation) Rules. Shinano Retail Private Limited, a fully owned subsidiary of RIL, which is the promoter group company of Network18, will sell the shares through the stock exchange.

Updates: added credit to VCCircle