As NDTV’s Tax troubles mount, Barkha Dutt distances herself from the channel

Not long ago, Barkha Dutt was known as the soul and face of NDTV. This happened because the bigwig anchors of the channel kept departing and Prannoy Roy’s stardom faded, which meant that Barkha was the sole captain of the ship. From hosting all the big-ticket shows, to using social media to drum up support for her failing channel, she did it all.

Then came the parting. After 21 years with NDTV, Dutt finally quit the channel early this year, amidst reports of major layoffs in the media house owing to its poor TV ratings. A short statement by NDTV wished her all the best for her future endeavours, and on the face of it, it seemed like an amicable split.

But her actions in the recent past show that probably all was not well between her and the channel. Strain was also seen between her and her ex-colleagues at NDTV.

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Early in June 2017 when the CBI raided NDTV’s promoter Prannoy Roy’s residence in the case of an alleged bank fraud, NDTV chose to spin the issue into an “attack on press freedom” narrative. An event was organised at the Press Club of India where journalists came out to support NDTV against a “witch hunt”. Curiously though, Barkha Dutt was conspicuously absent: in person at the event, and even on social media for supporting the channel.

Then in late June came the first visible sign of disenchantment with her former colleagues. In a blistering facebook post, Barkha spewed venom against unnamed colleagues. While she did not name NDTV or any specific person, it doesn’t take a genius to realise where the gun was pointed.

And now, it appears that Barkha has finally given up on her “silence”. The recent turn of events suggest that she has now completely abandoned her channel of 21 years.

According to reports published yesterday, NDTV and Prannoy Roy have been found guilty of Income Tax Fraud by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT). It is reported that the ITAT had some scathing observations on the entire issue:

  • The ministry of corporate affairs had in 2009 acted in collusion with NDTV founder Prannoy Roy and hid certain information related to shell companies set up by the news media firm to launder Rs 642 crore.
  • Dr Prannoy Roy was personally responsible for tax evasion and laundering of those Rs 642 crore
  • The channel and its promoters had laundered a total of Rs 1,100 crores from 2007-08 to 2009-10 out of which Rs 642.54 crores was black money.
  • The findings of the IT Department confirmed that Prannoy Roy made a conscious attempt to hide financial details of foreign paper subsidiary companies of NDTV, by not attaching audited profit loss account, balance sheet and annual report of these foreign shell companies along with the annual report of NDTV

Far from being silent, or being defensive of her channel, Barkha Dutt chose to slyly enjoy the slow cooking of the NDTV goose. She retweeted many tweets which exposed NDTV’s sorry state of affairs, and this was noted by social media users:

Some journalists also wondered if her account was hacked, since it was taking an openly anti-NDTV stance:

Barkha’s response to these tweets was a beguiling smiley face, nothing more:

Further, Barkha Dutt even distanced herself from the murky financial deals of NDTV when some social media users try to snare her into the trap:

Such anger against he brand that she built for over 2 decades indicates that towards the end of her tenure things became very sour between her and the people at NDTV. Worse, her constant refrain that she had nothing to do with the financials of the company also indicates that she might be aware of the cooking of books by NDTV, and hence wants to maintain a safe distance from the company.

The only way Barkha can now redeem herself, is to expose all the wrongdoings of NDTV, by donning the role of a whistle-blower. Maybe she can take some tips from her former colleague and do a “Truth vs Hype” of her own, this time focusing on NDTV.

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