India’s richest family, the Ambanis, have had a long and tortuous tryst with the media.
The subject of well-deserved scrutiny for their less-than-clean methods when India still had a moral compass, they have been media promoters, off and on, with mixed success, in post-liberalised times.
But for the most part, the Ambanis have been seen more on the giving side, than the taking side, vis-a-vis the media and media personnel.
Ramnath Goenka of The Indian Express is rumoured to have gone after Reliance Industries with a vengeance after Dhirubhai Ambani famously told him that he could buy up every journalist on his payroll.
Strangely, the Express editor of that era, Arun Shourie, delivered a eulogy to papa Ambani after his death. And under Shekhar Gupta, the newspaper was suspected to have cosied up to Mukesh Ambani big time.
The family’s first formal foray into the media came in the early 1990s when it bought Commerce magazine, and turned it into the Business & Political Observer, to tie in with its other purchase The Sunday Observer.
That enterprise was driven by Anil Ambani and, not surprisingly, given his overall record, bit the dust pretty soon.
Elder brother Mukesh Ambani, on the other hand, made a circuitous buy of a large chunk of Ramoji Rao‘s Eenadu Television group and through it Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18. On top of that, Ambani senior is reported to have a shadow stake in various TV channels, including Rajat Sharma‘s India TV and Rajeev Shukla‘s News24, and, if you believe the rumours, Prannoy Roy‘s NDTV.
Mukesh Ambani’s Network18 buy came with Forbes magazine and a clutch of websites including FirstPost. On Republic Day 2019, with general elections just 70 days away, #FirstPostPrint makes its debut as a print publication, with Praveen Swami as editor.
And oddly, for a group which has dozens of TV news channels in its hold, the promo video of #FirstPostPrint disses the ephemeral nature of television.
And, the newswire Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) has been whipped into activity with the appointment of Sandeep Bamzai as CEO.