Amidst deepening crisis at the ABP News, it has now emerged that the channel was about to be taken over a new owner. Sources within the Hindi channel said that talks were underway for industrialist Sanjiv Goenka to buy ABP from Aveek Sarkar, who also owns Anandabazar Patrika (Bengali newspaper) and The Telegraph (English newspaper).
Sanjiv Goenka is the chairman of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, which owns Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation. CESC has been the supplier of electricity in Kolkata for several decades now. The family has been at ease with political parties of varied ideologies.
“They were good with the Left when Jyoti Basu was the chief minister of West Bengal. They’ve had fairly good relationship with Mamata Banerjee, the current incumbent. And they also get along well with the BJP top brass. That’s the USP of Sanjiv Goenka clan,” said one Kolkata-based journalist.
Sanjiv Goenka already owns a pro-BJP news magazine, Open. This is what the magazine says about its ownership, “Open, the weekly current affairs and features magazine, is the flagship brand of Open Media Network, the media venture of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. The Group, which owns premium brands such as SaReGaMa, Spencer’s and Au Bon Pain, has assets in excess of Rs 31,000 crore and an employee strength of over 50,000. The RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group has diverse business interests in industries like Power and Natural Resources, Carbon Black, Retail, Media, IT, Education and Entertainment and Infrastructure.”
Sarkars of the ABP group have had their share of controversies with Mamata Banerjee, who slammed the media group for biases during the 2016 assembly elections. Soon after securing a landslide victory in 2016, Banerjee had lashed out the biased media and had refused to take questions from journalists from ABP group.
She had said, “Lies were spread, all efforts were made to discredit me and my party members. There is no place for such thing in politics. People have given fitting reply to those who took the election campaign to the dirtiest possible level.” Banerjee dodged the questioned by ABP News when the reporter asked her if she would lead the third front. This was welcomed by laughter by her supporters.
Anandabazar Patrika, owned by Aveek Sarkar, had come for criticism by Trinamool supporters for their perceived anti-TMC coverage.
ABP News channel has been a topic of intense social media discussion for last two days since its managing editor Milind Khandekar stunned everyone with his resignation. His resignation was then followed by stepping down Punya Prasun Bajpai, who quit the channel on Thursday. It coincided with the news that another perceived anti-government journalist Abhisar Sharma has been asked to go on leave for 15 days.
There are reports that he may not return to office again.
The channel has been facing criticism from the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after it exposed how the government officials had tutored a group of women in Chhattisgarh to falsely praise the central government’s initiatives. The show, Masterstroke, that carried the expose, then began to experience technical glitches in its broadcast. Critics said that the technical glitches during its broadcast was a deliberate move the government to teach the channel a lesson.
With Bajpai’s departure, Mastertroke too has been taken off air now.