Archive for April, 2010

‘The TV anchor; the ex-editor & TV personality’

29 April 2010

It’s raining phone taps in India.

First Outlook* magazine reported that new technologies available with the UPA government enabled it to pluck mobile phone signals off the air and eavesdrop into conversations without seeking legal authorisation.

Then, The Pioneer reported that an authorised tap (since denied) had revealed PR honcho Neera Radia‘s nexus with A. Raja, the telecom minister in the thick of controversy over the auction of 2G spectrum.

Now, MiD-DaY tosses a couple of well-known journalists into the soup.

Quoting from 14 pages of documents that have been doing the rounds for months in Delhi, J. Dey reports:

“The documents talk about individuals influencing policy changes at the highest level. It also says that two senior journalists—one a well-known anchor of a national television channel and the other a former editor, columnist and TV personality—lobbied on behalf of industrialists to secure ministerial berths for friendly politicians.”

Yesterday, a newspaper editor, for whose publication the “former editor, columnist and TV personality” now writes a weekly column, put up the news on his Twitter account.

The Hindu put up the 14-page document purporting to be the transcript of the intercepted phone conversations on its website before taking it off.

But one of the two journalists mentioned in the documents has thought it fit to respond, again on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Tata Sons, which is represented by Neera Radia, has issued a press statement through her agency neucom consulting.

“The Tata group has had a long and fruitful association with Vaishnavi Corporate Communications and its chairperson Ms Niira Radia (sic), which has added substantial value to the group’s communications and public perception.

“All of Vaishnavi’s interactions with the government on behalf of the Tata group have been related to seeking a level playing field and equity in areas where vested interests have caused distortions or aberrations in policy.

“Further Vaishnavi’s interactions with the Government on behalf of the Tata group, have, in keeping with Tata values, never involved payouts or seeking undue favors.”

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy MiD-DaY

Read the full article: Tap worm in India Inc

* Disclosures apply

‘Dubai is a haven of information for journalists’

28 April 2010

Dubai is a recurring theme in the ongoing tragicomedy in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Shashi Tharoor, who has to give up his ministership, was a consultant with a Dubai firm before taking the plunge in electoral politics. His close friend Sunanda Pushkar lives there. The new head of the Cochin IPL franchise Harshad Mehta is a resident of the city. Etc.

Plus, there are is the betting and matchfixing angle with a Dubai edge.

K.P. Nayar explains in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“For a journalist with a ‘nose’ for information, Dubai is one of the most open places in the world. Once a newsman has won the trust of an Arab, howsoever sensitive his position may be, he will share information with you which will be wrapped in multiple layers of secrecy in most other countries.

“In my decade-long experience in Dubai, people share information with trusted journalists in the full knowledge that it will not be written about — until after decades, as in the case of this narrative. Unless, of course, the journalist is seeking a one-way plane ticket out of the Emirate.”

Read the full article: The edge of a precipice

Photograph: courtesy Follow the money

Jessica Lal verdict proof that Indian media works

27 April 2010

The Supreme Court of India has upheld the life sentence awarded by the Delhi high court to Manu Sharma, the son of Congress leader and former Union minister Vinod Sharma, for killing Jessica Lal, who had declined to serve him a drink after the bar had closed in Delhi, in 1999.

Manu Sharma’s counsel, the noted criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani, had argued that his client had been specifically targetted and maligned before and during the proceedings by the media, which proclaimed him guilty even after the acquittal by the trial court.

Rejecting this argument, the SC bench said:

“Certain articles and news items appearing in the newspapers immediately after the date of occurrence did cause certain confusion in the mind of the public as to the description and number of the actual assailants/suspects. It is unfortunate that trial by the media did, though to a very limited extent, affect the accused, but [was] not tantamount to a prejudice which should weigh with the court in taking any different view.”

The veteran editor T.J. S. George writes that in his “misplaced protestations against the media”, Jethmalani lost sight of the fact that, for once, “trial by media” achieved something good, beyond anything he could have achieved.

“The media in India today is not exactly a clean entity. It has become, generally speaking, dubious in its motivations, mischievous in its pretensions, and plainly guilty in many of its practices.

“Large sections of it are corrupt.

“Amoral ideas have been institutionalised by the biggest players with fancy labels like “private treaties” and “paid news.” The guilty in the media too should one day be brought to justice.

“It is a bit of a miracle that a media that has abdicated its responsibility is still able to do some public good. It is the nature of its work that makes this possible.

“Malpractices, misdeeds and criminalities dot the activities of our governments, our politicians, our businessmen, our film stars and even our sports bodies. A great deal of this is brought to public attention only because the media, by default or otherwise, dare publish information the guilty try to suppress. We only have to recall the numerous scandals of recent times to appreciate the value of this service done by the media.

“The Jessica Lal case shows how the media, warts and all, and public spirited citizens and alert judicial authorities can work in tandem to keep at least a few of our influential criminals out of harm’s way. Justice is higher than a lawyer’s interest in his client. “

Read the full article: ‘Media is amoral, but it works’

Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcutta

View: Karan Thapar‘s award winning interview with Jethmalani

Who wins, who loses when it’s Gandhi vs Gandhi

26 April 2010

When the Mail Today juxtaposes the Congress scion Rahul Gandhi with the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, who should feel more offended, Gandhi junior or Gandhi senior?

The Guardian‘s media critic, Roy Greenslade, sees the promo in conjunction with Mont Blanc trying to sell pens in the name of Gandhi and Telecom Italia trying to sell phones in the name of Gandhi.

The Congress party sees it the other way round, according to a gossip item in the Indian Express.

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: Gandhi for the goose ain’t Gandhi for the gander?

‘Rule No. 1 of journalism: There are no gods.’

23 April 2010

Three weeks ago India Today magazine put Lalit Modi, commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) of cricket, on the cover with the line, “Billion-Dollar Baby”.

It puts him on the cover again this week, with the line “Run Out”.

Editor-in-chief Aroon Purie in his letter to readers, offers a muted mea culpa:

“Rule No. 1 of journalism: there are no gods. And if they appear to be so they usually have feet of clay.

“So it was with a fast-talking dynamic 46-year-old man who came from nowhere three years ago and became the god of cricket in India. This is none other than IPL commissioner Lalit Modi who is today embroiled in controversy.

“It is rare for India Today to fete someone on the cover for spectacular achievement and then put them on it within the same month for being in trouble. It was, however, inevitable as the IPL is not only a phenomenon that has revolutionised cricket but last week shook the government and led to the exit of one of its ministers.”

Also read: How come no one saw the IPL cookie crumbling?

The scoreline: different strokes for different folks

Look who is also in the IPL racket? An editor!

How come no one spotted the Satyam fraud?

How come no one saw the election worm turn?

How come no one saw the IPL cookie crumbling?

21 April 2010

The collapse of the Indian Premier League (IPL) pack of cards is identical to the unravelling of the Satyam fraud in 2009, from a media perspective. Namely, no media organisation—newspaper, magazine, TV station or internet website—saw it before it happened.

Or wanted to see it coming.

The player auctions, the franchise bids, the television rights, the glitz, the glamour, the sleaze were all unquestioningly swallowed and spewed out with nary an eyebrow raised.

Just three weeks ago, India Today magazine was putting the the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi—now accused of conflict of interest, nepotism, shady deals, corruption, sex, drugs, betting, match-fixing, and worse—on the cover, with a couple of cheer girls.

Till a week ago, The Times of India was happily having it both ways.

So, did nobody see it coming? At least one hand has gone up. Former Outlook magazine* journalists T.R. Vivek and Alam Srinivas co-authored a book on the IPL’s marriage of cricket and commerce last year.

In an interview with rediff.com‘s Krishnakumar Padmanabhan, Vivek says the red flags were visible from the very beginning.

Q: As an observer of the IPL from the early days, did you see any early warning signs? If so, what were they?

A: The very fact that cricket was being taken ‘private’ in one stroke was a red flag for me. It was quite similar to the East European countries embracing unfettered free market economics straight from the lap of Communism without any necessary groundwork for the transition. I was in a minority when I first raised questions about promoter motives, and antecedents.

What do a Mukesh Ambani or a Vijay Mallya know about the game to become cricket entrepreneurs? Are they here because it is their passion, or is it because owning a sports property was cool, and it propelled their social status higher than the already rarified echelons?

The franchise auction process left a lot of questions unanswered.

Another red flag for me was whether the Board of Control for Cricket in India had the management bandwidth, execution capabilities to embark on a novel idea such as this.

* Disclosures apply

Read the full interview: ‘Modi tinkered with the rules all the time’

Also read: How come no one spotted the Satyam fraud?

How come no one saw the worm turn?

The scoreline: different strokes for different folks

Look who is also in the IPL racket? An editor!

A song for an unsung hero: C.P. Chinnappa

19 April 2010

The passing away of journalists and editors barely gets a mention in Indian media outlets these days, not even in their former or current places of work, under the rather specious and cynical belief that journalists and editors should report the news, not make it.

It’s even worse, in the case of faceless non-journalists, like advertising, printing, circulation, technical and other allied personnel, such vital cogs in the giant wheel, who spend the best years of their lives in the service of their masters, only to be forgotten like a fly.

As for the carefully crafted obituary, forget it.

Chottangada Ponnappa Chinnappa, better known as C.P. Chinnappa, the long time publisher of one of India’s most successful evening daily newspapers, Star of Mysore, breathed his last on Friday. His friend and partner of 40 years, Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy, pays a royal salute.

***

By K.B. GANAPATHY

Erich Segal‘s famous novel Love Story began with an immortal opening sentence: “What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me.”

In the same refrain I would say, with appropriate change in words, about my friend C.P. Chinnappa, my partner in business and later director of the publishing firm, Academy Newspapers Private Limited, till his last breath on 16 April 2010 at 5 pm.

What can I say about a seventy-nine-year-old man who died? That he was handsome. And disciplined. That he loved racing and dressing. And newspapers. And me.

Yes, all these attributes fit him well like a cap.

And I would add one more—hospitality.

Chinnappanna, as I called him (for my children he was Boji) loved hosting parties to his friends and, as a bachelor, was caring to his vast extended family members. Always immaculately dressed, he attracted attention in a group by the magic of his mature looks and handsome personality. Rather conservative in speech, he won everybody’s love by his gentle manners.

For a time, in his young age, he worked in the then Kodagu state’s chief secretary’s office as the latter’s close confidant. Probably it was here that he imbibed the virtues of a good officer: the British sense of punctuality and discipline which he practised in his daily life.

This stood us in good stead while establishing our printing unit and later the flagship of our venture Academy Newspapers Pvt. Ltd., publishers of Star of Mysore and Mysooru Mithra.

As the editor and managing director, I have an erratic daily routine. It is not always possible to be punctual to the office. It was Chinnappa who filled the space most competently by his punctual presence in the office at 8.30 am, thus disciplining even the wayward employees of the firm without uttering a word of reprimand.

He led the staff and workers by his personal example, always. I don’t remember a single day when he had left the office without releasing Star of Mysore to the presses, for printing.

His mere presence made a difference.

Sadly, his health began to fail about a year ago and I personally perceived the deterioration.

His suffering during the last days was also my suffering, only I was unable to share it.

Such was our bonding that he was not just a business partner or a director of our company but a loving member of my extended family, so much so nothing in my family happened without his benign and gracious presence and participation.

With his passing away, Academy Newspapers Pvt. Ltd., has lost a mentor. And personally, while I feel a bit diminished myself, my family has lost a well-wisher.

Chinnappanna is no more, but the glorious happy memories of the times we both spent together as friends and entrepreneurs will linger with their subtle fragrance all my life.

May his soul rest in peace.

Also read: Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa: journo who broke Dalai Lama story

Chari, a lens legend at The Hindu

Harishchandra Lachke: A pioneering cartoonist

T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Jyoti Sanyal: The language terrorist and teacher

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

Sabina Sehgal Saikia: The resident food writer

M.G. Moinuddin: The self-taught newspaper designer

When it’s all in the family, it is all in the family

19 April 2010

The latest issue of the Indian edition of Forbes, “the capitalist tool“, has a four-page story on the war of the brothers in the boardroom of The Hindu over the proposed retirement norms for directors.

The article reveals that “for several weeks now,” two of the brothers in The Hindu triumvirateeditor N. Ravi and senior managing director N. Murali—have not been in speaking terms with their eldest brother, editor-in-chief N. Ram, despite living in the same neighbourhood.

The piece also quotes Murali’s daughter Kanta Murali, a Princeton University student and one of the signatories to a letter by the children of the brothers to all shareholders which preceded the outbreak of the third phase of infighting in September last year.

“I am completely disgusted by the happenings to the say the least. It’s obviously disappointing on a personal level since the changes affect my father but I am more concerned about the effect of this infighting on the 3,500-plus non-family employees, whose contributions and loyalty have long been abused by the family as a whole, as well as the impact of recent events on the future and credibility of the 132-year-old newspaper.”

The full Forbes article—‘The Hindu‘ epic of Mahabharata—will be up on its website on April 29.

Infographic: courtesy Forbes

Also read: Indian Express vs The Hindu. N. Ram vs N. Ravi

Not just about the brothers, it’s the children too

Now, it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs The Stalinists

Express declares ceasefire, brothers declare war

Kuldip Nayar: N. Ram is stalling Malini Parthasarathy‘s ascent

Look, who is also in the IPL racket? An editor!

18 April 2010

In his story on the burgeoning scandal in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Shantanu Guha-Ray, the business editor of Tehelka magazine, casually reveals how “the editor of a major Indian media house whose son had recently come under the radar of corporate intelligence bodies, is also trying to get into the IPL franchise racket.”

Image: courtesy Tehelka

Read the full story: The Indian Premier Leak

How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka

13 April 2010

The Indian Express has got hold of 82 pieces of correspondence between prime minister Manmohan Singh and the president of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government came to power in May 2004, using the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

One of the first letters between the head of the government and the head of the party, published in today’s Express, deals with Tehelka, the trail-blazing e-zine, which was hounded out of operation by the previous BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after its Operation Westend sting, before it morphed into a weekly magazine.

Read the entire article: Respected Soniaji

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: ‘Media is now part of the conspiracy of silence’

Tehelka promoters vindicated by official papers

The Tehelka man behind the biggest story of our times

Gandhian activism, fiery journalism & cocktails

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