Update: The Ken has learnt that two of Vice India’s senior editorial staff—news editor Kunal Majumder and managing editor Rishi Majumder—have resigned from their respective roles over alleged management interference in the editorial process. The resignation, according to sources, happened sometime between 10 and 12 March. In an email to his now former colleagues, reviewed by The Ken, Kunal Majumder wrote, “I find it disturbing that an editorial conversation that should ideally take place between an editor and the writer is now taking place between the management and the writer, and that too marked to non-editorial staff.” Majumder neither confirms nor denies writing the email. While sources say Rishi Majumder also resigned due to similar reasons, The Ken could not independently verify this claim. We have written to Vice for a statement and will update once we hear from them.
With much fanfare, in June 2016, The Times Group—the publisher of The Times of India and arguably one the largest media houses in India—and New York-headquartered Vice Media announced that they would be starting operations for the country with a TV channel and have digital operations on mobile and the web. Vice India web operations is a 50:50 joint venture worth $10 million with both the parties committing $5 million.
At the time, Vice’s decision to go with the Times Group, ahead of rivals Zee Entertainment, Reliance (through Jio) and Star India was seen as a coup of sorts. Vice’s stock was on the up in the United States and it had just launched a 24-hour cable TV channel, Viceland, with A+E networks. It wanted a similar deal in India: a TV channel along with a digital product i.e. a website, that would essentially feature millennial-friendly, “hipster”, “risque” content, for which Vice had gained a global reputation. It eventually came down to a non-negotiable deal—the TV channel, which Times was willing to commit to given its lack of visibility in the documentary/lifestyle space. On paper, the TV channel is a venture where Vice holds a minority stake because of India’s foreign direct investment rules.
Today, almost two years since that announcement, that fanfare has turned into a sense of anxiety. Vice’s party in India has been severely delayed. There is no sight of the TV channel, which, as per reports, should have started operations in the first quarter of 2017. The Ken has learnt that the channel is unlikely to launch anytime soon because Vice India hasn’t been able to secure a license from India’s information and broadcasting ministry. According to multiple sources aware of the development, the timeline has been pushed to the end of the year. And even that, they say, is tentative.
The Vice India website, the other part of the deal between the two companies, is expected to launch on 2 April 2018.