After taking over one of India’s largest media companies in the form of Network 18 group, now Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is eyeing a take over of Kalanithi Maran’s Sun TV network, another big media house which was once named as Asia’s most profitable media corporation and the largest TV network, according to its Wikipedia page. Sources within the company have revealed to Tehelka that senior officials of the RIL are meeting at their Chennai office to work the deal out. It has been stated that the deal has been in the works since the past three months as RIL officials are doing due diligence.
Reliance Industries, India’s biggest listed company, has already made a major foray into media sector. One of India’s richest billionaire businessmen Mukesh Ambani already has a controlling stake in Eenadu TV media group better known as ETV.
Backed by its US based partner Viacom Inc, Reliance has been on an aggressive acquisition spree taking control of a major chunk of the Indian media sector. RIL’s takeovers raise an impending threat in regard to ownership of the media. Reliance’s bid to take control of Indian media has its implications on free and impartial journalism. This puts up a big question mark on the editorial independence of the media and the resignation of some top journalists from Network 18 was a sign of simmering anxiety within the newsroom taken over by a big corporate, interfering in its functioning. Reliance it seems is leaving no stone unturned to protect its interests. An example of this was witnessed after the AAP launched a direct attack on RIL in the run-up to the elections, which led to a complete blackout of Arvind Kejriwal and his party as the stakes were too high for Ambani. Also, the recent corporate espionage scandal in which two Reliance senior executives – Shailesh Saxena from RIL and Rishi Anand from ADAG Reliance – goes on to show how Reliance will stop at nothing to protect and promote its interests.
With the acquisition of Sun TV after ETV, Reliance will be managing two big regional media houses giving it a pan-India presence. RIL, it seems, is working its way to influence public opinion through media by turning into the biggest player in the Press. Moreover its interests span petroleum, gas and retail – these are policy-dependent sectors – and hence control over media affords RIL to manipulate the system in its favor by putting pressure on policymakers through the power of Press. The monopolization and corporatization of media by Reliance is leading to the fourth pillar of democracy – media – developing cracks in it. Post the acquisition of Sun TV Network, Reliance will have complete control over Indian media – national and regional – as Network 18, ETV and Sun TV Network comprise the major chuck of the pie in media sector.
Meanwhile Kalanithi Maran’s – he was earlier known to be the highest paid Indian executive – fortunes took a downturn in the recent past. Not only has he been summoned as accused in the 2G scam and embroiled in the Aircel-Maxis controversy, he faced another setback in January 2015 when the board of directors of SpiceJet transferred control of the airline to Ajay Singh, the founder of SpiceJet, after a string of loss-making quarters.