Subhash Chandra’s winds of change

From press freedom sermons to dozens of senior executives exiting, Zee has been full of surprises this year.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
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In India, the World Press Freedom Day is usually an underwhelming affair. A few op-eds comment on the state of the media, global outfits recall violations of press freedom, and some independent media outlets, such as us, do a little bit of both.

But this year was different, with an odd video message – mourning India’s slide on the world press freedom index – by Zee founder Subhash Chandra, a media baron seen as close to the government. 

At first, it seemed to be either a puckish plotline of a rebellion film or a sermon in incapable narrative hands. After all, Chandra’s biggest news brand Zee News, as well as him, had long appeared to be champions of an ostensibly partisan media ecosystem. 

But there was also another backstory. Chandra had been embattled. His house of cards had come crashing down. His family’s stake in the company he founded was down to a mere 4 percent. A much touted merger with Sony had fallen apart. India’s market regulator SEBI appeared set to act against Chandra and his son Punit Goenka for alleged financial improprieties through misuse of position. And he had reached out to the Narendra Modi government for help.

Chandra, however, was apparently minting something else, using his crown jewel Zee, where a rollercoaster of changes was unfolding at the time he made his speech. 

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