Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV launched on Saturday, after months of delay and anticipation. The channel opened with an exposé featuring a phone call between the RJD party’s leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and controversial gangster-politician Mohammad Shahabuddin. On Sunday, the channel doubled down on the leak, tweeting and telecasting the story with the hashtag #LaluTapesExposed. With an opportunity to shape the contours of Republic in his own image, Goswami has staffed the channel with shows led by actor Anupam Kher, army veteran and commentator Major Gaurav Arya, and investigative journalist Chitra Subramaniam.
One day before launch, the network announced that its channel would livestream on Hotstar, marking the latter’s first news partnership in India. The channel will also livestream on JioTV and its website. Digit is Republic’s partner for tech coverage.
Republic TV launched with eight “founding partners”, a diverse slate of corporate sponsors from different industries and countries of origin. The sponsors include: Chinese smartphone giant Vivo; Mukesh Ambani’s Jio; French automobile multinational Renault; Tencent backed Hike Messenger; cab aggregator Ola; media mogul Rupert Murdoch-owned Star; Microsoft; and India’s Yes Bank.
A prominently advertised group of sponsors isn’t unusual for Indian news channels. These sponsors are especially important to Republic TV though, since the network does not charge cable and satellite TV operators any licensing fees for broadcasting the channel; instead, in India, TV channels typically have to pay a carriage fee to cable operators. As such, Republic’s only source of revenue will be from these (and other) corporate sponsors and advertisers.
Investors and legal trouble
Republic is a part of ARG Outlier Media, a private limited company set up last August headed by Goswami, his wife, Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrashekhar, and investment banker Ajay Rameshchandra Garg. TV Mohandas Pai, a former Infosys executive, has also admitted to owning a stake in the company.
In a reddit AMA, Goswami evaded questions on his investors, saying that he was “proud” of them, and said that Rajeev Chandrashekhar is a “nationalist” with whom he shares a “great rapport”. Chandrashekhar had sued online news publiation The Wire for publishing two articles that pointed out a conflict of interest between his investments in defence companies and participation in a parliamentary committee on defence.
Separately, Republic had received a legal notice from the Times Group, his former employer, warning him against using the phrase “Nation Wants to Know”, with which he responded with a public dare to Times, challenging them to arrest him. Previously, the channel was forced to change its name from Republic to Republic TV, following pressure from the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy.