Archive for September, 2010

Dishing out news means flouting parking rules

29 September 2010

A line of outdoor broadcast (OB) vans occupy one half of the road outside the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday, 28 September 2010, the day the highest court in the land ruled that the judgement in the Ayodhya title suit could be pronounced without any further delay.

Below, the media scrum sticks the mike out in the face of Mukul Rohatgi, the counsel for the petitioner, whose plea for deferment held up the proceedings.

Photographs: Kuppesh S. Kumar

Also read: When the OB vans came rolling in

Censored, but no copies have been confiscated

29 September 2010

Since January 2009, India has “censored” The Economist “newspaper” 31 times, mostly for its depiction of Kashmir in its maps. Usually, newsstand copies are more at risk of attracting the “illegal stamp” against subscription copies.

Image: courtesy The Economist

Link via Boing Boing

Also read: If it catches your eye, surely the ad’s working?

Funny joke from a balding journalist-blogger*

How to get from point B to point A in Chicago

Why Chinese children are learning Hindi

Why newspapers were offloaded from a plane

28 September 2010

An item in ‘Delhi Confidential‘, the Monday gossip column of The Indian Express, on the Volkswagen Vento “talking ad” run by The Hindu and The Times of India last week.

Facsimile: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: ‘Talking ads’ in The Hindu and The Times of India

Three reasons why the ToI-Volkswagen ad won’t work

When an advertisement becomes the news

Fortune India and Forbes India in numbers

27 September 2010

Much anticipated and much delayed, Fortune, the business magazine from the Time Inc stable, has finally made its India debut, in collaboration with Aveek Sarkar‘s Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP) group, 16 months after the launch of the Indian edition of Forbes in collaboration with Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 group.

# Forbes India periodicity: fortnightly

Fortune India periodicity: monthly

# Forbes launch cover price: Rs 50 (raised to Rs 100)

Fortune launch cover price: Rs 100

# Forbes inaugural subscription price: Rs 950 (26 issues)

Fortune inaugural subscription price: Rs 800 (12 issues)

# Total pages in Forbes launch issue: 122

Total pages in Fortune launch issue: 192

# No. of names in Forbes launch issue masthead: 43

No. of names in Fortune launch issue masthead: 20

# No. of articles in Forbes launch issue: 30 (+ regulars)

No. of articles in Fortune launch issue: 25 (+ regulars)

# No. of ads in Forbes launch issue: 25

No. of ads in Fortune launch issue: 61

# No. of gatefold ads in Forbes launch issue: 0

No. of gatefold ads in Fortune launch issue: 2

# Forbes India: launched by Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief, Forbes

Fortune India: launched by B. Muthuraman of Tata Steel and Ravi Kant of Tata Motors

***

# Forbes launch issue cover story: Lakshmi Mittal

Fortune launch issue cover story: India Inc’s international workforce

# Firang gyan in Forbes launch issue: Steve Forbes

Firang gyan in Fortune launch issue: Andy Serwer, managing editor, Fortune

# India peg in Forbes launch issue: Lakshmi Mittal, Vijay Mallya (UB), Tulsi Tanti (Suzlon)

India peg in Fortune launch issue: Jawaharlal Nehru article from 1942 Forbes, Naresh Trehan (Medanta), Pramit Jhaveri (Citibank India CEO)

# Forbes India shit-I-didn’t-know-that story: Suzlon’s wind energy plans become a nightmare, debts and losses are Mallya’s new companions

Fortune India shit-I-didn’t-kn0w-that story: Bill Gates‘ favourite teacher’s father was born in Bengal, Wal-Mart will soon have $500 billion in sales

# Forbes India Freudian slip: “Indians can’t work, Chinese can’t think”

Fortune India Freudian slip: Will Brazil overtake India?

# Forbes India editorial mission statement: “We will strive to convince you of a point of view with hard evidence, logic and clear reasoning. But at the same time, we will have an attitude, an edge, and strive to be conversaional like someone on a bar stool telling you a story. We’ll also be fun to read. Companies may be a shade dull—but their managers almost never are. That’s why we will tell our stories through people… It’s not just words alone. Our design—images, graphics, and illustrations—will work in tandem with our stories to create a contemporary business magazine.” (Indrajit Gupta, editor)

Fortune India editorial mission statement: “As we bring you the stories that matter from around the world, through meticulous reporage, deftly edited to ensure an effortless read, lavish pictures, and sophisticated design, we’ll always endeavour to make the magazine enjoyable. Indeed, to make you partners in the greatest journalistic assignment in history.” (D.N. Mukerjea, editor)

Ambani book review, a response and a riposte

27 September 2010

Its original avatar,The Polyester Prince, failed to see the light of day after injunctions were secured against its release in several cities.

Now, an updated version of Sydney Morning Herald journalist Hamish McDonald‘s book on the Ambanis has surprisingly hit the stands under a new title, Ambani & Sons.

Shantanu Guha-Ray, the business editor of Tehelka, reviewed the new version of the book in the September 18 issue.

The latest issue of the magazine carries a small interlude between author and reviewer.

***

MEMORY LAPSES

Refer to Shantanu Guha Ray’s ‘Two Boys and Their Grand Fight’, 18 September. In the review of my book Mahabharata in Polyester, I was baffled to learn that I had once been a part-time anchor for a show in the now-defunct Business India television channel. Nothing else in Guha Ray’s comments surprised me. He might have mentioned that he had previously volunteered for the role of co-author of this book and had been turned down.

HAMISH MCDONALD, on email

***

SHANTANU GUHA RAY replies: Business India television planned the Business India show for which McDonald was considered a part-anchor. He was brought in by Rita Manchanda. The show, with numerous re-adjustments, was eventually anchored by Saloni Puri. I produced the show. McDonald probably does not remember, it has been over a decade. He ignored me as a co-author. I am still reeling under that impact.

Also read: Why the Indian media doesn’t take on Ambanis

Sorry, brother, we got a few million $$$ wrong

Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

In the dosa joint where our ‘beloved father’ ate

How media hyped up the Reliance Power IPO

Anil sues Mukesh Ambani for New York Times profile

When games’ wealth ain’t for the Common Man

27 September 2010

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Is it all over for DNA in the battle for Bombay?

26 September 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The October 8 issue of Forbes magazine, from the CNBC-TV18 group, carries a four-page story that reads more like an advance obituary for DNA, the English broadsheet daily newspaper that was launched by the Dainik Bhaskar and Zee television groups to humble The Times of  India in urbs prima in Indus.

Five years and Rs 1,100 crore later, writes Rohin Dharmakumar evocatively citing the 1961 film Guns of Navarone, DNA’s original ambition lies in tatters, although the “theory” was perfectly feasible.

# DNA’s Bombay readership is down 15% from its 2009 peak, while The Times of India’s is 2.5 larger.

# DNA’s ad rates are one-third ToI’s on paper, but closer to one-seventh due to discounting.

# DNA’s revenue was Rs 148 crore last year, up 22% over the year before, but still Rs 70 crore short of covering its operating costs.

# DNA is now a distant No.3 in Bombay and Bangalore to Hindustan Times and Deccan Chronicle, respectively, and both are reportedly close to dislodging it from that position.

# Only current executive editor R. Jagannathan remains from DNA’s original star cast, many of whom were lured from The Times of India and hired at high salaries.

In hindsight, DNA’s faulty subscription drive, the launch and free distribution of Mumbai Mirror with ToI and the increase of ToI’s cover price to suck the newspaper budget of households so that a second newspaper cannot be bought, are seen to have been the key drivers in ToI fighting off the challenge.

Rahul Kansal, the chief marketing officer of ToI, is quoted as saying:

DNA came in with a lot of overconfidence. Heady with their launches in Gujarat and Rajasthan, they thought The Times of India would be a sitting duck. They started their outdoor campaign four months in advance, giving us adequate time to launch a new paper. I think they displayed their hand way too early, so by the time they launched, we had already soaked up a lot of the reading appetite.”

The southward turn in DNA’s fortunes is reflected in Subhash Chandra of Zee edging out partner Sudhir Agarwal of Dainik Bhaskar for a more hands-on role. Cost-cutting is the mantra of DNA’s CEO K.U. Rao, a former Shell executive in his first media stint.

“Probably the most stark sign of DNA’s transformation comes from Bangalore, where just over a year after it spent Rs 100 crore to put up a state-of-the-art press, it is now using it to print over 200,000 copies of Bangalore Mirror for The Times of India,” writes Rohin Dharmakumar.

The Forbes piece will be available online after October 7.

An Aroon Purie tribute worthy of emulation

24 September 2010

Farewell speeches and circulars in Indian media houses—where good HR practises are somewhere between 18th and 19th century—are usually grim, graceless, god-awful affairs.

The moment the exit sign lights up over an employee’s head, the good times are over: bosses suddenly bare their fangs, colleagues start hissing amongst themselves, and management chamchas slither around suspiciously.

Take a bow, Aroon Purie.

The India Today bossman has penned a touching farewell note for his Bombay bulwark, Mohini Bhullar (in picture), whose exit from the group was announced on Wednesday vide an email.

Below is the full text of Purie’s syanora laden with grace, goodness, gratitude—and civility—something that pumped-up managers and accountants would do well to ctrl-x and ctrl-v.

***

“Please join me in making this announcement very special.

“Because, it’s about a very special person.

“Because, it’s perhaps the most important and emotional formal announcements I have ever made in my life, and one I thought I would never make. It’s about someone who stood by my side for nearly a lifetime, and helped me steer the company from its inception to the enviable position it occupies today. It’s about someone who’s an integral part of the India Today group – and my professional life.

“Mohini has decided to move on from the India Today group effective September 30, 2010, after a glorious innings spanning over 40 years. She came on board with our group company Thomson Press as part of the sales team and was the first to establish a beachhead sales office in Bombay for Thomson Press. When we entered publishing, this became the very critical ad sales office for LMI [Living Media India] which she headed. The rest, as they say, is history. What a journey it has been!

“Mohini’s unflinching zeal, conviction and never-say-die attitude are some of the personal traits that have made her an indispensable part of the company. I can say this without any hesitation that the success we enjoy today is primarily because of her contribution and her enormous dedication.

“There was one common thread that kept her going in her entire career with the India Today Group, be it as editor of Bombay magazine, as publishing director of ITMB, as marketing director of the entire company, or for that matter, as the executive director in charge of the events SBU. It was her indomitable will, energy and her total professionalism. She is revered as the ‘Mother Queen’ of Indian print media by advertisers, agencies and the media alike – a fitting tribute to her competence and accomplishments. She has handled all her diverse and challenging roles with her usual aplomb.

“Now at the golden age of 77, Mohini is still very young in every which way. She still takes early morning flights, climbs up 3 flights of stairs at our F14 office in Connaught Place, probably faster than most of us, parties till late, shares the latest jokes with the young trainees who work with her and even supervises the event set-up for the IT Conclave at 1 am! And I also know for sure that she responds to calls, emails and text messages within a few seconds. Truly amazing!

“When I was running Thomson Press, and we were trying to figure out how to create our own work for the press, we came up with the idea of creating our own children books. Not finding any willing authors, she and I even wrote children books. We had great fun together. That’s the way it has been ever since.

“She brought to India from the Thomson UK the rights (for free of course) to publish a medical journal called the Journal of Applied Medicine, and that small publication was our first foray into magazine publishing and a precursor to India Today and all that followed.

“Mohini has single-handedly helped to build the brand India Today, while leaving me and the founding edit team to concentrate on the various editorial challenges when we launched India Today in 1975. Thanks to her, I didn’t, and still don’t have to make a single sales call to any company or ad agency. She completely insulated the editorial team from the commercial pressures advertisers are prone to exerting and established the abiding cornerstone of the company of uncompromising editorial integrity.

“Mohini has inspired the key younger generation of leaders in the Group. Our CEO, Ashish Bagga, tells me that his first interview as management trainee was with Mohini in Bombay in 1983, at her office in Jolly Maker Chambers. Malcolm Mistry, publishing director, was Mohini’s understudy for over 6 years and was handpicked by her. Most of the advertising and media professionals in India have at some point in time worked or interacted with Mohini. She has represented the Company on the INS, ABC, NRS, ASCI, MRUC, AIM and many other premier industry bodies.

“But alas, I guess, all good things have to come to an end. Mohini has decided to move on and I on behalf of the entire 5000 employees of ITG, comprising TP, LMI, TVTN, IDIL, MT, ITAS, Bagit, HCI and all the ones that are currently being incubated, wish her an amazing and successful journey ahead. A journey full of good health, happiness, prosperity and satisfaction.

“It is my good fortune to have found a wonderful colleague like Mohini so early in my working life and I am filled with sadness that our ‘lucky shining star’ will be leaving us. But I know for sure that she will continue to cast her lucky charm on us and guide us to even better and happier times.

“We will all really miss Mohini. No words are sufficient to thank her for her contribution to the Group. We will continue to reap the benefits of that for the years to come.

“Please do join me in wishing Mohini the very best in all her future pursuits and to radiate happiness to all around her with her ever so charming smile and demeanor.”

Prabhu Chawla out, M.J. Akbar in at India Today

23 September 2010

There is change at the top of the totempole of India’s largest English newsmagazine, India Today.

After several false rumours of his impending mortality as helmsman, editor Prabhu Chawla has been sent off to look after the language editions of the magazine.

Author-editor-columnist M.J. Akbar has been named editorial director of India Today and the English news channel owned by the group, Headlines Today.

The appointments were made public in an email sent by group editor-in-chief Aroon Purie to staff last night. The changes will take effect from Friday, September 24.

Below is the full text of Purie’s circular flagging the changes:

***

“It gives me great pleasure in announcing the formation of a brand new SBU (strategic business unit) within Living Media, which will become an independent company very soon, that will address the burgeoning opportunity of Indian language publishing and all related extensions in the Indian language domain. To begin with, all current India Today language brands will be assigned to this new SBU.

This new company will be placed under the leadership of Prabhu Chawla, who will be designated Editor (Languages) and CEO. Prabhu Chawla will report into a Board. Given the tremendous opportunity of this space and in view of his new responsibilities, Chawla will give up the editorship of India Today – English edition and India Today – international and all their related extensions.

“As editor of the magazine for the last 14 years he has done great work in turning it into a weekly from fortnightly and maintaining its position as India’s leading newsmagazine. He will also be consulting editor to Business Today.

“Prabhu’s new mandate will be to address the business and editorial opportunity of Indian language publishing in an aggressive and focused manner. His efforts will be directed towards growing the existing language publications and to launch many more new language publications in the future. In collaboration with ITGD (India Today Group Digital) he will be addressing digital opportunities in the language space as well.

“Prabhu will continue to be associated with Seedhi Baat in Aaj Tak and will spearhead the group’s initiative in setting up a media/journalism institute. He will also continue to lead the group’s content archival project and the library resources. This comes into effect from September 24th, 2010.

“It also gives me immense pleasure in announcing the appointment of  M. J. Akbar as editorial director of India Today (English) and India Today (international) and their related extensions.

“He will also have the additional charge as Editorial Director of Headlines Today.

“MJ, as he is popularly known in the industry needs no introduction, given his rich and long experience in launching, managing and leading several top print publications in the country. MJ comes on board effective September 24th, 2010 and will report to me.

“As you can see, these are significant changes in the editorial leadership of our group’s flagship brands, which I am sure will be transformed by them to meet the challenges of the fast changing world that we live in. They will explore new opportunities too.

“Please join me in wishing Prabhu and MJ the very best and I also seek your active support in making this a smooth and successful transition.”

***

Till The Week was launched in the early 1980s (and Outlook* in the mid-1990s), Akbar’s Sunday magazine, published by the Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP) group, was fortnightly India Today‘s main competitor. Akbar currently has a stake in the weekly newspaper The Sunday Guardian and writes a column for The Sunday Times of India.

Under Chawla, a former ABVP volunteer who used to cycle to the offices of India Today delivering press releases, India Today took a shine for the BJP and the magazine’s  anti-Congress vibe reportedly earned the displeasure of the ruling dispensation.

Akbar, a former Congress MP, too has been vehemently anti-Congress and anti-UPA. Dislodged in 2008 as editor-in-chief of The Asian Age which he helped found, Akbar has gone so far as to accuse prime minister Manmohan Singh of “sabotage” by signing the civilian nuclear deal with the United States.

Ironically, both Akbar and Chawla were in the running for a Rajya Sabha seat on the BJP ticket in 2008, but their ambitions were nixed with the nomination of another journalist turned politician, Balbir K. Punj. Chawla who figured in the Indian Express 2009 power list at No. 71, didn’t figure in the 2010 edition.

* Disclosures apply

***

Also read: Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

Is media resorting to self-censorship on Ayodhya?

22 September 2010

The run-up to the court verdict on the title suit in the Ayodhya dispute has seen plenty of activity built around the media. The News Broadcasters’ Association—the body representing private television news and current affairs broadcasters—has issued a set of four guidelines to all editors of member-news channels:

1) All news relating to the High Court judgment in the case should be verbatim reproduction of the relevant part of the said judgement uninfluenced by any opinion or interpretation.

2) No broadcast should be made of any speculation of the judgement before it is pronounced ; and of its likely consequence thereafter which may be sensational, inflammatory or provocative.

3) No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any new item relating to the judgement.

4) No visuals need be shown depicting celebration or protest of the judgement.

Citing the size of the court room, the media (print and electronic) have been kept away from the compound of the Allahabad high court, and the court has gone so far as to say that the media must not speculate about the verdict till it has a copy of the operational part of the order.

Now, the Union home minister P. Chidambaram has urged the media to “reserve judgement and not make hasty pronouncements.”

While the precautions are no doubt understandable given the preciousness of human life, a good question to ask is, is the Indian media resorting to self-censorship in order to present a better face? In the process of doing so, is it allowing itself to be told what to do and what not to do, thus depriving viewers of what they should know?

If all this passes muster in the name of “self-restraint”, where does this self-restraint vanish on normal days? Is the NBA’s call for self-restraint now an admission of the utter lack of it on regular days?

Was the killing and mayhem that followed the demolition of the Babri masjid by Hindutva goons, while BJP leaders watched in 1992, squarely a fault of the media? Conversely, if the media weren’t around for this and other stories, would India be a land of milk and honey?

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

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