Bharat24 founder Jagdish Chandra (second from right) with managing editor Ajay Kumar (third from right) and union minister Anurag Thakur at the channel’s launch.
According to those familiar with developments, a lack of professional culture and a convoluted editorial strategy have been the primary reasons for the exits.
“I was not comfortable working there,” a former staffer who quit soon after the launch told Newslaundry. “The channel does not have a working culture.”
A second former staffer, an editor, reiterated this claim and added that Bharat24 is “directionless” and “does not have a line”.
“In a workplace, everyone should know what their job is,” the editor said. “That is not happening. Their editor in-charge was non-performing and there was a lack of ideas as well as coordination. Honestly, maza nahi aya.” There was no fun.
A third former staffer elaborated on the lack of resources for news gathering. “There was no professional setup.” the staffer said. “The channel has a very low budget. The management spent money only on the anchors. There are no office spaces or cars for other bureaus. We were told, and it was advertised, that the channel . Where are they? I’ve never seen them.”
During the Bharat24 launch, Chandra had told Thakur that the channel’s position will be “largely fair and independent, with intelligent support to the central government for its popular and pro-poor policies”.
“Every channel has a line,” the editor explained. “NDTV is known as the professor of channels; IBN-7 used to be known as the agitator; Aaj Tak is the capsule because it reports on almost every story.”
But Chandra’s channel seems to have no view. “I did not know what Bharat24 stood for, nor did anyone else,” the editor added. “And so, the news selection was all over the place. Sometimes there was no one to select what to broadcast.”
Bharat24, an addition to the overcrowded world of India’s 392 news channels, was billed as Chandra’s ascendance from regional to national. In 2008, the bureaucrat left the Indian Administrative Service to helm the ETV network, where he came to control 15 regional channels. In 2017, he quit the network and became the CEO of Zee Media’s cluster of regional properties. Chandra put in his papers at the network in 2018, and between then and the launch of Bharat24, he has been the chief managing director at First India News, a Rajasthan-centric news channel based in Jaipur.
“The channel hired on the back of flowery ideals, big expectations and good salaries,” a fourth former Bharat24 staffer, an anchor, told Newslaundry. “Sadly, it could not meet those expectations.”
The anchor claimed that Chandra had stressed that TRP would not be a consideration for Bharat24’s news coverage, but that changed soon. “They’re not super excited about TRP, even pushing anchors to do ‘thoda drama’,” the former staffer said. “It made me uncomfortable. Anchors were calm when the channel launched, but as weeks went on, there was more and more pressure to put on faux aggression.”
One of the channel’s latest hires is Shazia Nisar, the former Republic Bharat journalist who while reporting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Former staffers view this as Bharat24’s strategy to prioritise noise over news.
The anchor remarked that the channel “wants to be NDTV on one day and Republic on the other,” underlining the lack of clarity over its editorial principles. “Content wise, they’re confused,” the former staffer said. “You can’t cover the war in Ukraine and two bulls fighting in some village in Rajasthan at once.”
Newslaundry sent a set of questions to the office of Bharat24 chief Jagdish Chandra. This report will be updated if we receive a response.