ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Big Business Weds Big Media

The Reliance/Network18 deal should make us wake up to the impending threat to media plurality.

Few are discussing it. India has just seen one of the biggest media deals, where the country’s leading industrial and business giant has bought into the largest network of news and current affairs TV channels. Yet, the fact that this could mark the beginning of a trend leading to private media being controlled by a handful of corporates, as has already happened in so many countries around the world, and have a direct impact on media plurality, seems to have escaped notice. Is the silence deliberate given that most media houses do not want to be seen as too critical of a company that already has enormous influence in innumerable spheres? Or do they fear that too much talk could result in pressure on the government to look again at suggestions about regulation on cross-media ownership?

The Rs 2,100-crore deal between Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and Network18/TV18 is significant for more reasons than one. It is the first time that a non-media company of the size of RIL has obtained a direct stake in media. There are other smaller businesses such as real estate companies that have invested in media, as have politicians and political parties. But none of the leading business houses have done so. As a result of the RIL deal, Network18/TV18, which owns seven TV channels including news and business channels, will now control Eenadu TV (ETV) that has a vast reach through its 12 regional language channels with a viewership in at least 10 states.

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