There once used to be a time when any new announcement by Reliance Industries would be put under the microscope by the media and examined with a fine toothcomb.
A rights issue, a new venture. a tie-up, even a routine annual general meeting (AGM). Everything would be inspected with forensic detail by newspapers like the Indian Express given the track record and reputation of Dhirubhai Ambani’s company.
It is a reflection of how high Reliance has soared—or perhaps a reflection of how journalism has been hollowed out, or co-opeted—that there is nearly no critical commentary on RIL’s recent announcements.
Rather than investigating how Mukesh Ambani was able to swing deal after deal for Jio in the lockdown period when the whole world was shut, the media is in a celebratory mood.
Rather than asking questions about the implications of a single company controlling the entire chain from production, to distribution, to consumption, newspapers are advising regulators to lay off.
And rather than asking how RIL will roll out 5G when it holds none of the patents, there are servile editorials on the company’s pivot from the industrial to the information age.
In this episode of J-POD, the podcast on journalism, Paranjoy Guha Tharkurta, former editor of the Economic and Political Weekly, discusses some of the issues that ought to be at the forefront of the conversation on Reliance Jio’s latest deals.
In a 43-year-long career in journalism, Thakurta has worked for newspapers and magazines, and done books and documentaries, and hosted television chat shows.
Thakurta, who was at the forefront of the investigation into the 2G spectrum and coal allocation scams that dogged the Manmohan Singh government, has explored crony capitalism and illicit financial flows up close.