Archive for May 19th, 2012

Good news: ‘Media sector is a sunrise sector’

19 May 2012

What was bazaar speculation for quite a while is now a matter of record. Aroon Purie, the bossman of the India Today group, has divested over a quarter of his holding in Living Media India Limited, in favour of one of India’s richest men, Kumar Mangalam Birla for an undisclosed sum

(Business Standard reports that the deal may have been worth Rs 35o crore).

The stake sale brings one of India’s biggest corporate houses, the Aditya Birla group, into mainstream magazine and television space (the K.K. Birla group owns the newspaper Hindustan Times); sets up a clash of telecom titans for the 4G space (Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries has bought into the TV18 network); and raises questions over growing corporate ownership of the media.

Below is the internal note shot off by Ashish Bagga, the group CEO of the India Today group, at 9.10 pm on Friday, 18 May 2012:

***

Dear All

I am pleased to inform you of a significant development for the INDIA TODAY group.

Just this afternoon, the $35-billion Indian multi-national, ADITYA BIRLA GROUP (ABG) and your company, which is India’s most respected and diversified media corporation, have come to an agreement for a 27.5% financial investment by a private investment company of the Aditya Birla Group in our holding company, Living Media India Ltd.

Commenting on the investment, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla group said: “The Indian media sector is a sunrise sector from our investment point of view. I believe that the India Today group offers one of the best opportunities of growth and value creation. ITG’s management ethos, values, brands, product portfolio and future plans offer one of the best opportunities for growth and value creation.”

Aroon Purie, our chairman said, “I am delighted to partner with the Aditya Birla Group to aggressively address the current and future potential of the Indian media business which is at a tipping point. The Aditya Birla group with its strong leadership, global footprint, diversified business interests and its shared values of integrity, commitment and social responsibility make it a perfect fit with the India Today group.”

By virtue of this development, your company will embark on a high growth and expansion strategy across all its existing and new businesses.

I look forward to a successful and trail-blazing future.

Ashish Bagga, group CEO

Image: courtesy Mail Today

What they said when Shankar shut his Weekly

19 May 2012

The capitulation of the Congress-led government at the Centre in the Ambedkar cartoon controversy was welcomed with the thumping of desks by parliamentarians who seemed to have little appreciation of the legendary Shankar‘s work and even less of what its inclusion in a school textbook meant.

From Congress president Sonia Gandhi (whose mother-in-law Indira Gandhi ushered in press censorship in 1975 and whose husband Rajiv Gandhi tried to pass the defamation bill in 1987) to the BJP which opposed both; from the supposedly “liberal” Left to the young MPs who represent the “future”, no one (bar one) raised a voice.

But back in 1975, when the legendary cartoonist P. Shankar Pillai decided to close down Shankar’s Weekly, there was a flurry of letters from politicians in the final issue. At least five Congress chief ministers mourned its imminent closure, including the Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra, who would later become synonymous with the Bihar press bill.

Here’s a mirror of India circa 2012 vis-a-a-vis 1975:

***

It is indeed sad and unfortunate that the only letter you chose to address to me personally should convey to me your intention to bow out. It is going to be a painful ordeal for thousands of your readers including myself, to go without the Weekly. I must believe you when you say that advancing age and ill-health have compelled you to close down Weekly, but I see neither of them reflected in your magazine. Indeed a tribute to your spirit – so young despite age! I am sure the Souvenir you propose to bring out will be an adorning piece on your lovers’ and admirers’ book-shelves! It will also serve as a lesson and guide to the new generation of cartoonists and journalists, convincingly telling them what an individual can achieve single-handedly.

S.B. Chavan
Chief Minster, Maharashtra

***

I was rather distressed to hear that the great journal is closing down after twenty-seven years of yeomen service to the nation and significant contribution to journalism in India. I really wish I could compel you not to close down Shankar’s Weekly, but I quite understand the reasons that have forced you to take this painful decision.

Harideo Joshi
Chief Minister, Rajasthan

***

I have received your letter with mixed feelings. That a journalist of your eminence has excellently finished his innings in this harsh world in a tribute to your sobre manners, accommodating  spirits, and the immense sense of humour which you have been exhibiting for the last quarter of a century. You have shone on the horizon of Indian journalism in a manner which is difficult to imbibe. You are an institution in yourself and the younger generation in the journalistic field will feel proud to emulate your example in all spheres of life.

H N Bahuguna
Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh

***

Sorry too learn that you are not keeping well, but I am impressed to find that your sentiments remain the same. Your effort to publish a souvenir of Shankar’s Weekly are praiseworthy.

Jagannath Mishra
Chief Minister, Bihar

***

I am really sorry that you are closing down Shankar’s Weekly.

D. Devaraj Urs
Chief Minister, Karnataka

***

I read the contents of your letter with deep concern. I know how the Shankar’s Weekly was started with your efforts and made a name of itself and continuous devotion and dedication. I am sure you have taken the decision after deep thinking and for the good of your health and for other reasons. You always had my admiration and regards, and it will grow whether you are with the Shankar’s Weekly or not.

Radha Raman
Chief Executive Councillor, Delhi

***

Shankar’s Weekly has served a very good purpose for over 25 years and could rank as one of the best cartoon journals in the world.

Jagannath Rao
Member of Parliament, New Delhi

(Published in the 31 August 1975 issue of Shankar’s Weekly)

Photograph: courtesy National Book Trust

Research: courtesy D.D. Gupta

Also read: Shankar‘s Weekly: the final editorial

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