Of all the 'national' icons Indian television media has created since 1990s — Prannoy Roy, Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai, Arnab Goswami is a giant. As Arnab resigns from Times Now, his colleagues, viewers and competitors will remember him as the man who changed the destiny of newsroom debates.
Arnab changed the newsroom to a high decibel ‘warzone’ and replaced discussions with hysterical trances filled with ‘jingoism’ and ‘nationalism’. Arnab appointed himself as the guardian of India’s nationalist cause and became patriotism-personified for most Indian households and the destroyer of ‘anti-nationals’ of all religion and colour. Most of Arnab's programmes and talk shows were mindgames. Arnab changed his tone only on very rare occasions, one of them being his famed interview with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Twitterati had described the show as if they were "watching a date."
One thing is for sure though — all those unlucky politicians and Pakistan diplomats who, for years, experienced a version of hell at the 9’o clock NewsHour on Times Now by way of constant personal insults and the feeling of long voiceless moments for not sharing Arnab's views, are now heaving a long sigh of relief. However, no matter what his critics say, Arnab has carved an iconic status for himself when it comes to news broadcast space. Even those who dislike his debates have secretly made themselves available in front of their living room television sets to enjoy the high-decibel show that has been free supplier of adrenalin rush rather than the essence of news.
Arnab is a byproduct of a fiercely competitive commercial television space. The television culture Arnab has designed and nurtured (and others have followed), focuses on everything other than the true essence of discussion. One needs to train their ears and eyes hard to identify anything other than Arnab's voice. In that destined ‘hour’, only those in full agreement with the master stand a tiny chance to make use of their vocal chords, while the rest are temporarily reduced to a comatose state.
But, more than Arnab's abrupt exit, the manner in which the celebrity news anchor called it quits after a decade in Times Now newsroom is interesting. Arnab has been off-air for a few days and on Monday night the channel, probably suffering losses at the TRP box office, started reassuring NewHour junkie that they would get their daily fix from the next day. "Arnab will be back tomorrow night" said the news flash. This indicates that till Monday night, no one really knew about Goswami's impending jump from the newsroom. Did something happen between Monday night and Tuesday that saw his dramatic departure? Or was Monday night's news flashes followed by the Tuesday's newsbreak of his resignation designed to ensure unprecedented eye-balls for a Super Super Prime Time on Tuesday?
When Goswami finally called it a day from the Times Now newsroom — and no matter what he does next — he will leave behind a legacy that has no parallels in the history of Indian television yet. Newshour just cannot be the same without Arnab Goswami just as it is possible that Arnab Goswami may not be the same without the Newshour. That, only time will tell. But the one thing the 'Nation Wants to know tonight' is what triggered his exit.
Firstpost is from the same stable as CNN News18 which competes with Times Now.