There is an old saying that trouble never comes alone. This seems to be true at the moment for Republic TV (RTV). RTV and its founder-director cum anchor, Mr. Arnab Goswami, has recently seen a lot of trouble. First a spate of police cases, then the supreme court refusing relief, and now the disappearance of one of its regular advertisers, Renault – the French car manufacturing giant – from its sponsor line-up.
Our investigation reveals that, although Renault has not publicly dissociated itself from RTV, it has quietly withdrawn its advertisements. The lone European sponsor of RTV, Renault, was lobbied by Indian diasporic networks in the EU, following which their campaign was joined by the known anti-hate speech groups like Stop Funding Hate and Sleeping Giants.
The campaign was launched soon after the blatant attempt by Mr. Goswami to trigger communal tensions following the tragic lynching of two Hindu priests in the state of Maharashtra. The online media house Newslaundry published a list of companies that regularly sponsor RTV. Renault, having featured on that list, was then targeted on Social Media. The car manufacturer seems to have stopped advertising on the channel shortly afterwards, possibly fearing consumer backlash.
Republic TV, since its conception in 2016, has aligned itself with an ultra-nationalist stance, which has often led it to allegations of biased reporting. They have also been accused of fueling hate and division on religious and sectarian lines. These accusations notwithstanding, Republic TV has gone from strength to strength, emerging as the leading Indian news channel in English. Doubts, however, have remained about its real viewership numbers. The leading position was further cemented after the imposition of the nation-wide lockdown which saw a spike in viewership for all news channels. Currently this gigantic lead may however be narrowing. The possible case of advertisers backing out of Republic TV may spell further trouble for the channel in the backdrop of increasing pressure from activists, especially in western democracies, to curb hate speech.