Archive for April, 2008

Obscenity ain’t in the eyes of the publisher

30 April 2008

This promotional advertisement—showing the top half of a woman with a ten-pence coin covering each of her breasts—released by Rupert Murdoch‘s Sun newspaper has been ruled as not offensive or pornographic by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in Britain.

Objections related to women being portrayed as sexual objects, the ads appearing on buses where children could view them, and also that the image was pornographic.

But the ASA ruled that the Ten Pence Bikinis ad, “whilst distasteful to some, was not overtly sexual in nature and the amount of flesh revealed was no different to that in a bikini ad and could not reasonably be argued to be pornographic or likely to cause serious or widespread offence.”

Photograph: courtesy The Independent, London

Also view: The most offensive ads of 2007

Cursor on screen is edging out ink on paper

30 April 2008

Philip Meyer says the last newspaper will be printed, packed, sold, (and hopefully) bought, read, crumpled and thrown in the first quarter of the year of the lord 2043. That’s 35 years from now, but The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin, has acted before that eventuality could take place.

The six-days-a-week newspaper has ceased ink-and-paper publication and become a 24x7x365 fullfledged 21st century internet operation since Monday, writes Roy Greenslade.

“That’s the spirit. That’s the future. That’s how it is going to be. Not everywhere at once. Not right away in every American city. Not next week in any British city. And, looking at the situation here in Australia, not in the next decade here. It’s all about the realisation that the screen is edging aside ink-on-paper journalism.”

Photograph: Staffers hold aloft the last edition of the paper (courtesy Capital Times)

Read the full article: Wisconsin ‘paper’ shows the way

Also read: Will paper tigers last longer than real ones?

Announcement: Vinod Mehta in Bangalore

29 April 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Vinod Mehta, editor-in-chief of Outlook magazine, is to deliver the convocation address to the graduating class of 2008 at the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media (IIJNM), Bangalore, on Saturday, 3 May 2008, according to a press release from associate dean, Kanchan Kaur. The time is 10.30 am. The location: IIJNM, opposite BGS international school, Nityanandanagar, on the Bangalore-Mysore highway, after Kengeri.

’80 per cent of Indian journalism is stenography’

28 April 2008

P. Sainath, the Magsaysay Award-winning rural affairs editor of The Hindu, at the Rajendra Mathur memorial lecture organised by the Editors’ Guild of India, says the moral universe of the India media has shifted; outrage and compassion among journalists has died.

“One, the fundamental feature of the media of our times is the growing disconnect between the mass media and the mass reality. Two, there is a structural shutout of the poor in the media. Three, there is a corporate hijack of media agendas. Four, of the so-called four estates of democracy, media is the most exclusive and the most elitist.

“The moral universe of the media has shifted. Two things have died-outrage and compassion. You have a lot of drawing-room outrage, but not over issues that moved earlier generations of journalists. The structural shutout of the poor is evident in the way beats are organised in newspapers.

“How many national media journalists were covering the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha? There were six. But there were 512 journalists covering the Lakme Fashion Week in Bombay.

“There is journalism and there is stenography; 80 per cent of journalism you are reading or viewing today is stenography. Everyone knows there is a crisis of credit. Thanks to the loan waiver. How many of your newspapers or channels have told you that the guys who are claiming that they have expanded credit have closed down 4,750 bank branches in the last 15 years?”

Read the abridged text of the lecture: The terrible steno

Also read: ‘Indian media doesn’t cover 70 per cent of the population’

‘India is a nation of two planets: the rich and the poor’

Link via Anand V.

Rupert Murdoch eyeing print space in India?

28 April 2008

There have been persistent rumours of it for a while now. Now Business Standard reports that Rupert Murdoch‘s Star group is indeed planning a foray in the print media in India.

Top executives of Star are believed to have visited Bangalore and held talks with liquor baron Vijay Mallya for a possible joint venture. Mallya owned the Tamil satellite channel Vijay TV before he sold it to Star. He also held the Bangalore franchise of Asian Age before letting go of it.

The possibility of Murdoch tying up with Aveek Sarkar‘s Ananda Bazaar Patrika group of Calcutta is also in the air. When rules of foreign direct investment in Indian television changed, ABP picked up Star’s stake. The two groups have also collaborated to launched the Bengali channel, Star Ananda.

Murdoch and Sarkar featured in Nicholas Coleridge‘s biography of the world’s great publishers, Paper Tigers, along with two other Indians, Samir Jain and Ramnath Goenka.

Photograph: courtesy New York magazine

Also read: How Murdoch dumbed down television news

All this, and Star Vijay and Star Bangla

An urgent telegram to Shri Rupert Murdoch

Network 18 rejects no-poaching pact with Times

27 April 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: In what is being interpreted as a sharpening of knives before the next round of The Great Indian Print Media Battle, Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 is said to have summarily rejected a proposal for an informal “no-poaching agreement” floated by the country’s biggest media group, Bennett, Coleman & Co which publishes The Times of India and Economic Times.

Tens of Times journalists have been eyeing Network 18 after the group unveiled plans for an Indian edition of Forbes magazine and the Financial Times. With ToI executive editor Jaideep Bose, aka JoJo, being mentioned as a possible editor of FT, the Times group is understandably apprehensive of a newsroom exodus and an exponential increase in costs to retain talented staff.

(Senior staff at ET have received hefty hikes as high as 50 per cent in recent weeks but it is not proving to be enough for the privately-held Times group despite its deep pockets to keep its flock together. Network 18 is a listed company.)

ToI brand director Rahul Kansal is reported to have sought a meeting with Bahl and Network 18 CEO Haresh Chawla last week to enter into a no-poaching agreement after the exit-JoJo rumours surfaced. With the Times group planning a business television channel to exploit the Economic Times brand image (which could see reverse traffic from CNBC-TV18) Kansal thought he had it all firmly sewn up.

But Network 18, whose print ambitions against the might of the Times group hinges on attracting top-flight business journalism talent, is believed to have nipped the proposal in the bud.

The Times group had entered into a tribal no-poaching pact with the Hindustan Times in an earlier skirmish for the Delhi market. The logic was that both groups would benefit by not trying to poach staff from the other, thus keeping journalists’ salaries in check. The two companies even set up a joint venture to bring out the tabloid Metro Now. But the only winner in the bargain has been the Times group.

Aware of that precedent, the Bahl-Chawla rejected ToI‘s no-poaching overture outright.

“Kansal called and sought a formal meeting with Bahl and Chawla. But knowing what was coming, the two declined even to meet. Let’s meet for a drink if you like, but as far as a no-poaching agreement, it’s a no-no from our side was the signal,” says a Network 18 source in the know.

Meanwhile, as its executive editor’s fate hangs in the balance, the Times group is pulling out all stops to stymie Network 18‘s FT venture. One publisher, who brings out a slew of business magazines, says senior Times functionaries have approached him to join a publishers’ lobby to thwart the entry of foreign titles such Forbes (from Network 18) and Fortune (from Ananda Bazaar Patrika).

“Who are the Times folk fooling by wanting to oppose Forbes or Fortune when they are not even in the magazine space? Their real target is Financial Times,” says the publisher.

The Times group (along with The Hindu) has long been at the forefront of the opposition to the entry of foreign publications and foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Indian media.

It had launched a weekly supplement titled Financial Times in the early 1990s to prevent Pearson from setting foot in India in collaboration with T.N. Ninan‘s Business Standard. After a long court case, when FDI upto 26 per cent was allowed in the print media, FT invested in Business Standard hoping to take the association forward.

But FT pulled out recently and got into a tieup with Network 18, which is what is giving the Times group the heebie-jeebies.

Also read: The dream paper

FT India: The buzz is rising

The ads say it’s going to be smrtr and smplr. Bttr?

27 April 2008

Like the proverbial wolf, “Deccan Chronicle is coming”, “Deccan Chronicle is coming” has been the cry in media circles in Bangalore for at least three years now. Well, this time it is coming for sure, and hoardings have sprung up across town promising a smarter, simpler paper aimed at the SMS generation.

Less Words? Shouldn’t that be Fewer Words?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Neena Gopal to edit Deccan Chronicle in Bangalore

‘Media can’t be in a state of permanent war’

26 April 2008

“There is nothing called ‘fiercely independent’ or ‘tamely independent’. You are either independent or you are not independent. I don’t believe in media as a crusade. I believe media is for disseminating truth. That’s our job. It’s not our job to go into a permanent war with somebody. I am not interested in a permanent war with anyone, and certainly not with my government.”

M.J. Akbar, former editor-in-chief of The Asian Age, in an interview with Mehre Alam of Khaleej Times

Read the full interview here: ‘It’s not for media to crusade’

Also read: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

JoJo says he wants to leave The Times of India

25 April 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi:The Times of India‘s executive editor Jaideep Bose says he wants to go. JoJo, as the affable editor is known, made the announcement on Friday afternoon at a retreat where editors of the paper had convened with brand executives over the weekend.

With tears in his eyes, JoJo is reported to have told his colleagues that what they were hearing in the past week was true. As the first SMSes bearing the bad news flew into Delhi, top bosses of Bennett, Coleman & Co went into a huddle to decide the next course of action.

Bose is slated to head the Indian edition of Financial Times that is to be published by Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 in collaboration with Pearson, although there could be other print plans as well from the group which has set a scorching pace with its television, online, film and other moves.

But there is no confirmation of his possible destination.

JoJo’s sudden decision to leave the Times, less than a fortnight after the launch of the Madras edition of the paper, has sent shock waves in Times House, given his long and fruitful proximity with Samir Jain who runs India’s biggest newspaper group with his brother Vineet Jain.

The two questions many are asking today is: Will there be an exodus from the Economic Times newsroom, where JoJo was editor before he moved to ToI, for the new paper? (After the FT rumours broke last weekend, the group dipped into its deep pockets to blunt the possibility of further poaching. Senior Economic Times staff have received hikes, some to the extent of 50 per cent this week.)

An even bigger question confronting the Times group is, will the exit of JoJo make it even more difficult for the group, for all its size, reach and prosperity, to attract and retain serious journalists when larger, transnational players start dangling giant cheques?

One source claims that JoJo met the Brothers Jain on Monday to clarify his position after the quit reports surfaced last weekend. The brothers, it appeared, made JoJo a counteroffer and convinced him to stay on. JoJo for his part was listed to attend the World Newspaper Congress in Sweden in early June as scheduled, along with other top executives.

But, in private, JoJo himself had been characteristically non-committal. To some in his charmed circle in Delhi, he is reported to have confirmed that it is not a question of if but when, a view coming out of Network 18 too. But to some others in Bombay, he had offered an opposite indication.

In fact, some senior staffers who had put in their papers were told by JoJo this week to stay in the paper. He even offered one of them a larger, more clearly defined role for him. But when asked if he would stay, JoJo is reported to have said he would let them know early next week, presumably after the editors’ retreat ended.

But news of the resignation seems to have come earlier than that. In an organisation that wants its editors to maintain a low profile, the swirling rumours—even the slim suggestion that a journalist was running circles around the marketing mavens—was proving to be embarrassing.

While it was clear that the Jains could match any offer Network 18 or anybody could make to retain JoJo & Co if they wished, the persistent talk of a 10-17 per cent stake in the new paper for the editor probably took the debate into a completely non-negotiable realm in a privately-held, family-owned newspaper group which is not even thinking of an IPO for the moment, and which has long held that journalists don’t deserve so much bhaav for how little they impact the bottomline.

The manner in which JoJo has been poached by Network 18 has an eerie similarity with the manner in which
the group roped in Rajdeep Sardesai from Prannoy Roy‘s NDTV. In Sardesai’s case, too, he was given overall control of the new venture, plus a stake in the new channel. Clearly that seems to be the mantra in India’s exploring media atmosphere.

With Sharanya Kanvilkar in Bombay

Also read: Is Raghav Bahl India’s new media mogul?

Why JoJo might want to leave The Times of India

How Murdoch is taking on the New York Times

25 April 2008

American media observers went into a tizzy when news emerged that Rupert Murdoch would lay his hands on the Wall Street Journal. So what’s happened to the paper since he gained ownership of it?

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has done a survey of the frontpages of the newspaper in three months preceding and succeeding the Murdoch’s takeover and it tells a story that Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times might not like.

# In the first four months of Murdoch’s ownership, the Journal has shifted its focus, opting for less business coverage and for more coverage of national politics and international issues.

# Politics and campaign coverage more than tripled from December 2007 to March 2008, reaching 18% of the newshole compared to 5% in the months before the takeover.

# Business coverage dropped more than half—falling from 30% in the months prior to the sale to 14%.

# A comparison of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times front pages suggests the editorial competition is largely in the area of politics.

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