New Delhi: After five months and 18 days, television journalist Arnab Goswami was back on air on Saturday with his news channel Republic TV.
In a ten-minute monologue Saturday morning, Goswami, dressed in a blue suit and a red tie with longer-than-usual hair, spoke to his viewers about his journey so far. His demeanour seemed calm with a reassuring smile that didn’t leave his face.
“Does the nation want to know?", he started out, but quickly moved on to say, “I don’t know."
Republic TV is a media venture of ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd, and Asianet News Service—a company founded by Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who is also an investor in the firm.
Republic TV’s first investigative story was about Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad and his links to Mohammed Shahabuddin, a convicted criminal. The story created political ripples on Saturday morning.
Goswami’s prime time debate—Arnab’s Debate—will be aired at 10pm on Republic TV, a departure from the 9pm Newshour show he hosted on Times Now.
Goswami was the president and editor-in-chief of Times Group news channels Times Now and ET Now until he quit the organization on 1 November 2016.
“It’s been five months and 18 days to be exact and trust me I have measured every day, I have felt every minute and I have counted every hour. And I have missed every moment that I was unable to talk to you, that I was unable to connect with you, that I was unable to speak with you and debate for you and reach out to you. I cannot even express this morning how helpless I felt on so many days and so many evenings when there was a news story that I wanted to debate," said Goswami on Saturday, launching Republic TV.
Also read: Is there room for Republic TV?
“I travelled across India because I did not have the resources then to spend on evangelizing the channel, and I was fortunate to meet hundreds and thousands (of people) in schools and colleges and at events. And then suddenly one evening I announced at an event with a few thousand Indians in Bengaluru the birth of this channel as a movement," he said.
“And when the attacks came, when the threats came, when the unscrupulous legal notices came, you supported me, and for that support I am grateful. And I am fortunate and I am blessed. And somewhere along the way I feel, genuinely, that the universe conspired to make this happen," he added.
Goswami was referring to the Times Group’s legal notice over efforts to trademark “nation wants to know", a phrase he made his own during his time with Times Now.
In the 10-minute monologue, Goswami listed three objectives for the channel: to move the centre of gravity of the Indian media away from the political capital (New Delhi), to build alive a spirit of pride in the nation and in the media, and to pursue real news stories.
Visually, Republic TV does not stand out. The colour scheme of the channel is vermillion red and yellow. The design and layout of Republic TV is staid and typical of any news channel, packed with a news ticker at the bottom, the red and white logo on the top right corner and the “super exclusive" news break followed by its hashtag that persistently runs through the screen on top.
Some contributors on the channel include author and journalist Rahul Pandita; Saad Bin Jung, a former Indian cricketer and now a conservationist and author; Aparna Popat, a former badminton player and Arjuna awardee; Sreeram Chaulia, a world affairs analyst and dean of Jindal School of International Affairs; and author Vikram Sampath.
Advertisements from founding sponsors, such as Gionee, have started airing on the channel.
In his closing remarks, Goswami was bitter sweet.
“On a more personal level today dear viewers, my dear Republic viewers, wherever you are watching this today, today is my day to say thank you to you. On the 14 of November I ended my last show on TV without being given a chance to even say goodbye to you. That made me and my team more determined to get back on air again. We worked very hard and we built a new-age network. The game has only just begun and we are back. Once again, we will debate. I promise you I’m not going anywhere."
HT Media Ltd, the publisher of Mint and Hindustan Times, competes with The Times Group in some markets.