Archive for November, 2011

2011 Sanskriti Award for Tehelka’s Rana Ayyub

22 November 2011

Rana Ayyub, a Bombay-based assistant editor with Tehelka magazine, is among the five recipients of this year’s Sanskriti Awards. The awards were presented in New Delhi on Friday, November 18.

In her seven-year career in journalism, Rana, 28, a postgraduate in social communications media, has reported from the naxal hotbeds and the warlands of the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

A press release says Rana has to her credit revelational exposes on rightwing fundamentalism and conflict and terror related reports in the country. “She considers her work on the arrest of innocent Dalit teenagers under terror acts in the naxal infested areas of Maharashtra as perhaps the most riveting and thought provoking pieces.”

Photograph: Rana Ayyub (fourth from right) at the presentation of the Sanskriti Awards, with former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (second from left) and other winners, in New Delhi on November 18, 2011

Also read: Aman Sethi bags Red Cross journalism prize

EPW journalist bags Appan Menon award

Rema Nagarajan of ToI bags Nieman fellowship

Mint‘s Monika Halan among Yale fellows

Chameli Devi prize for Tehelka scribe, K.K. Shahina

Pallava Bagla bags ‘Oscar’ of science journalism

Saikat Datta bags prize for using RTI for story

India-China friendship award for Pallavi Aiyar

Knight fellowship for Frontline’s Dionne Bunsha

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads

19 November 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For the final anniversary of the year of India’s “Family No. 1″—the birth anniversary of the nation’s first woman prime minister Indira Gandhi—there are 70 advertisements amounting to 32 published pages in 12 English newspapers that have been surveyed through the year by sans serif.

With this anniversary, the total number of government ads to mark the three birth and three death anniversaries of the three former prime ministers from the family—Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi—in the year of the lord 2011 goes up to 393.

In effect, the government has bought space amounting to 190¼ pages in the 12 newspapers.

# The Times of India is the biggest beneficiary of the ad blitz to mark the six anniversaries among the general-interest newspapers with 65 published ads followed by Indian Express 62, Hindustan Times 57, The Hindu 42, The Pioneer 41, Mail Today 36, The Statesman 25 and The Telegraph 18 ads.

# The Economic Times and Business Standard top the list of the busines dailies with 14 ads each, followed by the Financial Express with 11 ads. Mint (from the Hindustan Times stable) has received just one ad for the six anniversaries.

# As a group, the Times group has received 79 ads in all, the Express group 73 ads, and the Hindustan Times 58 ads.

While it is natural that ToI and HT should garner so many ads given their large circulations in the national capital, the second place for the Express group is revealing considering it sells less than five per cent of market-leaders ToI and HT in the Delhi market, which both sell in excess of 5 lakh copies.

The tabloid Mail Today, which has the third highest circulation among the Delhi newspapers, too gets fewer ads than the Indian Express.

***

The affection of various Union ministries, departments and State governments for the three departed leaders of the family is revealing.

While Rajiv Gandhi tops the charts with 177 advertisements amounting to 89 pages for his birth and death anniversaries, Indira Gandhi comes second with 134 ads amounting to 64 pages, followed by Pandit Nehru at a lowly 82 ads amounting to 37¼ pages.

***

The breakup of the Indira Gandhi ads today are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 10 Indira ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 32-page issue; 11 ads amounting to 4¾ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 28-page issue; 14 ads amounting to 5¾ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 42-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 5½ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 20-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 3 broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 18-page issue; 6 ads amounting to 2¾ broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 26-page issue; 0 ads amounting to 0 broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 16-page main issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ broadsheet pages

Business Standard: 18-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ pages

Financial Express: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ pages

Mint (Berliner): 12-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Among the advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, culture, water resources, statistics and programme implementation, north eastern region, micro small and medium enterprises, social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, there are ads of the national commission for women.

***

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

HT springs to ToI’s support in Times Now case

16 November 2011

Admittedly, the Justice P.B. Sawant libel case against Times Now is a grave one with serious implications for the media across the nation. Even so, it is worth asking if The Times of India-Hindustan Times jugalbandi—most evident when the arch rivals joined hands to float a (now-defunct) tabloid to stymie the launch of Mail Today from the India Today group four years ago— is back in full flow?

Some fresh evidence of it is visible in today’s issues of the two papers. While ToI carries a long story on HT Media’s complaint against a music company over royalty, HT has returned the favour with an editorial page piece against a Pune court order directing Times Now to pay Rs 100 crore in damages to former Supreme Court judge Justice Sawant, for wrongly showing his photograph in a news story on corrupt judges three years ago.

The author of the HT piece is the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the noted Supreme Court advocate, Arun Jaitley, who writes:

“As someone having familiarity with the quantum of damages Indian courts award, this order appears to be somewhat unusual. Observers are still unable to come to terms with the quantum of damages awarded even in cases of death or disability caused by Union Carbide in the Bhopal gas tragedy.

“The quantum awarded in various death cases, be it an accident or otherwise, in India, is normally modest. The quantum awarded recently in the Uphaar fire tragedy is a case in point.

“If a former judge is entitled to R100 crore for his photograph being flashed erroneously on account of being mistaken with another phonetically similar name, will this precedent be applied by Indian courts to other ordinary mortals who complain of loss of reputation on account of far more serious allegations?

“I am not aware of a single case where even 1% of this amount has been awarded to an ordinary citizen or a public person for loss of reputation. There is no better way of shutting down Indian media than by awarding punitive damages against journalists, newspapers or TV channels that are completely disproportionate to the value of money in Indian society.

“Each media organisation is expected to exercise due care and caution. Errors, however, will take place on account of the very nature of the news circulation business. If channels or newspapers are to suffer such an order, on the assumption that R100 crore are to be the normal damages awarded to a citizen, we may in the next 10 years become a nation without media organisations.”

Read the full article: Control freakery

Also read: Editors’ Guild backs Times Now in libel case

Editors Guild backs ‘Times Now’ in libel case

15 November 2011

The Supreme Court of India has declined to intervene in a Bombay High Court case against Times Now, directing the channel to deposit Rs 20 crore with the court registry along with a bank guarantee of Rs 80 crore, in a libel case involving the former chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice P.B. Sawant.

The case relates to a 2008 incident in which Justice Sawant’s photograph was shown in a 6.30 pm news report on the provident fund scam, instead of that of Justice P.K. Samanta, then of the Calcutta high court. A court in Poona directed Times Now to pay Rs 100 crore in damages, against which the channel appealed before Bombay HC.

The Editors Guild of India* has issued the following statement:

“The Editors Guild of India expresses its concern at the implications of today’s ruling of the Supreme Court, rejecting a Special Leave Petition seeking a stay against a High Court decree for damages worth Rs 100 crore against the Times Global Broadcasting Company Limited.

“While recognising that the law of defamation is an important qualification of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, the Guild believes that the law of defamation has to be construed in such a manner that it does not constrain the normal functioning of the media.

“An unintentional error because of a technical mix-up is in a different category from malicious or intentional libel. If inadvertent errors were to be met with punitive fines, it would make it difficult and indeed hazardous for journalists and media organisations to carry out their professional duties.

“The Guild notes that in the present case the photograph of Justice P.B. Sawant was shown mistakenly as being involved in the Ghaziabad District Court Provident Fund Scam because of the similarity of names with another judge. There was no malice. The error was corrected within 15 seconds, and for five days the channel issued a public apology to the wronged judge.”

* Disclosures apply

323 ads, nearly 160 pages to mark 5 anniversaries

14 November 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: There are 58 government advertisements amounting to 26¼ pages in 12 English newspapers today to mark the birth anniversary of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In contrast, there were 108 ads amounting to 48 pages to mark his grandson, Rajiv Gandhi‘s birthday in August.

All told, so far this year, between three death anniversaries (Nehru’s, Rajiv’s, Indira Gandhi‘s) and two birth anniversaries (Rajiv’s and Indira’s), various ministries of the Union government and Congress-ruled State governments have spent taxpayers’ money in buying 323 advertisements amounting to 158¼ published pages in the 12 surveyed newspapers.

The breakup of the Jawaharlal Nehru ads are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 11 Nehru ads amounting to 4½ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 3¾ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 24-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 2¼ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 2¾ broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2¼ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1 broadsheet page

***

The Economic Times: 30-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

Business Standard: 16-page issue; 2 ads amounting to 1 page

Financial Express: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ page

Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Among the advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, human resource development, micro small and medium enterprises, youth affairs and sports.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan and Delhi. Besides, there are ads of Nehru Yuva Kendra and the national book trust.0

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Jawaharlal Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv Gandhi birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Indira Gandhi: 64 ads, 32 pages; Vallabhbhai Patel: 9 ads, 3 pages

How mainstream media has neglected Manipur

14 November 2011

Pradip Phanjoubam, editor-proprietor of the Manipur English daily Imphal Free Press, on how the mainstream Indian media has covered the 100-day-old blockade in the northeastern State,  in conversation with Jyoti Punwani in The Times of India:

How do you view the media’s coverage of Manipur’s situation?

Many TV channels themselves said Maharashtra or Gujarat would not have been allowed to be blockaded, even for a week. One channel told me it would cost them Rs 2 lakh to send their team for 15 minutes of coverage. They would need the same amount in advertising to pay for the coverage…’It’s a backward tribal area. These tribals are difficult to handle’ – I’ve heard this so many times, even from central government officials. We are just ‘the other’.

Read the full interview: ‘If Manipur had 12 MPs, we would be wooed’

Check out the newspaper: Imphal Free Press 

Pradip Phanjoubam: Manipur media in crisis

A paper without ‘paid news’ for north Indians

13 November 2011

It is the season for southern English newspapers to head North.

Deccan Herald is due to print out of Delhi from December. And nowThe Hindu, “the most readable daily in the world” which already prints out of the national capital, has added another printing centre in the North, with a potshot at those who “serve up news that somebody else has paid for”.

Image: courtesy The Hindu 

Also read: Good morning, your paper is free of paid news

Coming soon: A Deccan Herald edition from Delhi

Ravi Dhariwal: Reader is king, reader is the CEO

12 November 2011

Ravi Dhariwal, the chief executive officer of The Times of India group, on why Indian newspapers still continue to be successful unlike in western markets.

“Coming from an FMCG background, fundamentally the first thing that I look at is, is it good for our consumers? Is it good for our advertisers and customers? The traditional publishing world was very different, it first thought of itself rather than the reader or the advertiser. That mindshift is extremely important.

“We exist because we have a reader; we exist because the guy who pays our bills is our advertiser. Therefore we need to be constantly attuned to them rather than just sitting in our ivory tower and saying, this is what we believe is important and this is what I am going to give to you.

“We [in ToI] are extremely fortunate to have editors who understand this and we have been able to make them understand this. They constantly talk to consumers and they are constantly in the market just to figure out what is really important, what is bubbling, what is good for our readers to know.

“To us the reader is the CEO, I am not the CEO.”

External reading: ‘Our paper isn’t for editors; it’s for readers’

NYT, WSJ weigh in on Tehelka’s Goa controversy

11 November 2011

The controversy surrounding Tehelka magazine’s Goa conference, ThinkFest, had so far been largely confined to sections of blogosphere, which used an editorial page piece in Hindustan Times by the theatreperson Hartman de Souza, and Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal‘s response to it, as a trigger.

Only Deccan Herald among the large English dailies gave any play to the kerfuffle kicked up by remarks reportedly made by Tejpal at the end of the first day of the conference, that since they were in Goa, they could eat, drink, be merry and “sleep with whomever you want.” (Also see “Crusader turns Collector“)

Possibly because Tehelka‘s conference had international backers in Tina Brown‘s Newsweek and its sister website, The Daily Beast, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have both found the controversy over the location and sponsorship juicy enough to put out stories today.

***

Lydia Polgreen in NYT:

The slick and well-attended conference led some in the Twitterverse and blogosphere to wonder: had Tehelka sold out to India’s mining barons and real estate tycoons?

The festival was sponsored by some of India’s top corporations and held at a hotel allegedly owned by men in jail awaiting charges involving the 2G telecommunications scam.

Potentially even more damaging, Tehelka faced accusations that it withheld an investigative story about illegal mining in Goa in exchange for the Goa state government’s support for the festival, an allegation the magazine’s editors strenuously deny. A version of the article was later published by Firstpost, a news Web site….

Tarun J. Tejpal, Tehelka’s editor, said that he was unaware of who owned the hotel or any environmental violations in its construction when his staff scouted the location months ago.

“When we looked for a hotel that could accommodate the scale we wanted, we couldn’t find a single hotel that could find a hall that could accommodate 600 to 700 people,” until they found the Grand Hyatt, which was still under construction. “Much later on the virtual eve of the fest we began to hear of these other issues.”

By then it was too late to shift to another location, he said.

Essar, one of the corporations sponsoring the festival, runs huge mines in Chhatisgarh and elsewhere, and some press critics have accused Tehelka of softening its criticism of the mining giant in exchange for sponsorship.

Tejpal flatly denied this, and said it was spurious to claim that his magazine’s journalism was somehow suspect, arguing that no publication has done more to highlight the plight of India’s dispossessed than Tehelkha, which frequently runs exposés of corporate and political misdeeds.

“There is a kind of absurdity for these arguments,” Tejpal fumed. “At the end of the day, by that count, virtually everything in India is suspect.”

Lucy Archibald in the WSJ:

However, some of the controversy merits a closer look. Most contentiously, writing in the Hindustan Times, Hartman De Souza, the sexagenarian theatre veteran and activist, accused the Tehelka editor of compromising a story about Goa’s illegal mining in order to get a green light for the festival.

According to De Souza, Tehelka reporter Raman Kirpal visited the state in March and discovered the illegal mining of iron ore at several times the environmentally cleared rate. This allegedly amounted to an illegal profit of Rs 8 billion ($163.5 million). Subsequently, the state-appointed Public Accounts Committee reportedly put the figure lost by the state exchequer closer to Rs 3,000 crore.

De Souza contends that Tejpal delayed the publication of the story just when he was in talks with Goa’s Chief Minister Digambar Kamat about approval and sponsorship for the event. And so far no such story on Goa’s illegal mining has run in Tehelka.

The reporter has since left the magazine and published his story on Firstpost.com, where he has now taken up a staff position. Coverage of the mining scandal followed in various local media outlets.

Several Goan government officials, including Kamat, were allegedly castigated in the committee’s report…. As a result of all this, De Souza objects to the inclusion of the Goan government as a sponsor of the ThinkFest event.

Tejpal published a strong riposte pointing out that the reporter in question was fired by Tehelka “on account of poor performance.” He strongly rejected De Souza’s version of events, calling his article “bizarre and baseless” and its author “full of rage at the world, but no facts.”

He also pointed out that they “actively refused sponsorship from all the Goan mining companies.” The festival was partly sponsored by companies including Aircel, Essar and Tata Steel.

Photograph: courtesy Newsweek

Also read: A magazine, a scam, an owner and his Goan house

Tarun J. Tejpal: “We haven’t bent or violated any rule”

Should the Chief Justice present media awards?

11 November 2011

Influential members of the Supreme Court bar were aghast and affronted when the Indian Express named the Chief Justice of India, S.H. Kapadia, as the most powerful man in India two years ago, especially when he had just taken over and the apex court was seized of major cases with corporate interests, such as mining in the tribal belts and the 2G scam.

The agitated blackcoats could do little but to mutter in private, although one vociferous law officer nearly wrote a newspaper column against such “brazen buttering up of the judiciary by the corporate media”.

Chastened by the earlier experience or more likely, by the fracas over press council chairman Justice Markandey Katju‘s comments, the Delhi tabloid Mail Today of the India Today group reports in its gossip columns that Justice Kapadia has turned down a request of an unnamed “prominent media group” to present its journalism awards.

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: Arnab edges out Barkha on power list

The 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros

A columnist more ‘powerful’ than all media pros

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