ANI’s news business: ‘PR’ contracts with CMs, podcasts and a quest for power

What does it take to be the government’s favourite? In this expansive piece, we speak to past and present employees of ANI to find out.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
Illustration of businessman with ANI logo as their head, scrolling through laptop.

At noon on February 12, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate told the media she was going to give them the “true story” of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s economic performance.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters in Delhi, Shrinate wheeled out data, from GDP to FDI inflow, to contrast the UPA government’s performance from 2004 to 2014 to that of the BJP’s. This was how Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “messed up” the economy, she said, even though Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had just tabled a “white paper” in Parliament claiming the UPA government had been “fragile”.

The press conference ended and reporters swarmed towards Shrinate, brandishing mics. Among them was Asian News International or ANI, which calls itself “South Asia’s leading multimedia agency”. The ANI reporter asked four questions – on the economy, farmer protests, leaders quitting the Congress – after also covering Shrinate’s speech.

That day, ANI’s main handle on X, which has 8.1 million followers, posted 346 tweets. Shrinate and her press conference did not make the cut. Unlike ANI, its video competitor PTI tweeted Shrinate’s speech.

But this is neither surprising nor unusual.

ANI’s reputation since 2014 is of being pro-government to the point of being crude. The truth is it’s always leaned towards the powers that be for access and business. Every second tweet from its regional X handles are on chief ministers. 

Since Independence, ANI and its owners have captured India in war and peace. Most archival footage we see on TV has an ANI connection. Its reputation of yore includes the fact that it dared to run a video interview of Pradeep Sharma, a suspended IAS officer who alleged then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleague Amit Shah had allegedly snooped on a woman. Sharma was interviewed at the time by Naveen Kapoor, now ANI’s national bureau chief. 

Kapoor’s X profile now has a picture of Modi, perfectly encapsulating the state of affairs at the news agency today. ANI is far more likely to find citizens who praise Modi during his public meetings and rallies than at any other event held by an opposition party. 

During key elections, Modi looks to ANI – as he did in 2014, 2019 and 2022 – for soft interviews. Shah gets a platform too at crucial moments, such as when he debunked “myths” after the notification of the Citizenship Amendment Act rules in March this year. ANI’s editor Smita Prakash hosts a podcast too, where she invites four pro-government guests for every single anti-establishment voice. We’ll get to this data later in the story.

In Modi’s India, ANI has unrivalled access to everything the government does. It was the only private media house permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Ram Mandir during its consecration in January. It’s also the only non-government media house that flies with Modi on his foreign tours. 

This is why ANI has earned the sobriquet “always in Narendra’s interest”.

Today, ANI is a funnel that feeds over 400 Indian news channels and 1,000 newspapers with a barrage of bytes, stories and videos. After the boom of 24x7 news channels in the 2000s, ANI has an undisputed monopoly over the news business with a sprawling network of reporters, stringers and cameramen. In Delhi alone, ANI boasts over 60 cameramen on its payroll. 

How did ANI get this way? We spoke to 16 former and current employees of ANI to stitch this story together. 

Newslaundry sent 24 questions to ANI as part of this story. 

Subscribe now to unlock the story

paywall image

Why should I pay for news?

Independent journalism is not possible until you pitch in. We have seen what happens in ad-funded models: Journalism takes a backseat and gets sacrificed at the altar of clicks and TRPs.

Stories like these cost perseverance, time, and resources. Subscribe now to power our journalism.

  • Access to paywall stories
  • Access to NL Chatbox
  • Access to subscriber-only events, including The Media Rumble and NL Recess
  • Access to podcast RSS links to listen to our paywall podcasts in apps like Apple and Google Podcasts
  • Access to NL Baithak




600 off

Already a subscriber? Login

You may also like