Posts Tagged ‘Hi Bangalore’

Income, outgo, assets, liabilities, profit and loss

4 October 2010

With journalistic integrity, both individual and institutional, increasingly under question with the spurt of paid news, private treaties, mediating, brokering and other wheeling and dealing, there have been growing calls for journalists to also declare their assets and liabilities, much like politicians, judges and bureaucrats.

Ravi Belagere (in picture), the colourful and sometimes controversial editor of the Kannada tabloid Hi Bangalore!—whose ad-free menu is a heady cocktail of crime, cinema, sleaze, politics and literature—has been doing just that on the pages of his paper for years now.

Every September, the popular and prolific Belagere, who also writes and publishes books, hosts television shows, acts in movies, and runs a school on top of his journalistic duties, publishes not so much a list but a confessional of what he holds and what he owes.

This is Belagere’s deeply personal “P&L statement” for the year gone by (translated from the original Kannada), published in the October 7 issue of Hi Bangalore!.

If nothing else, it offers a start.

By RAVI BELAGERE

“It is account-giving time once again.

“For someone who rode to Bangalore on his motorcycle with Rs 380 in his pocket, if I am anything today, it is because of Hi Bangalore!. For 15 years, I have been a humble servant of you, my reader, and it is my duty to present my accounts before you, my master.

“Except for two buses which I purchased for Prarthana School, I did not obtain any moveable assets  this year. For my personal use, I have a Skoda and Volkswagen, with the Skoda being put to greater use. But, as you are aware, in the second-half of the last year, my movements were restricted [due to an illness].

“There is a Maruti Omni in the garage for the use of the office staff. The Ind-Suzuki and Bullet motorcycles that are so dear to me, continue to remain parked there.

“I did not buy any new clothes either but I did buy books as if they were going out of fashion.

“I purchased a house-site in ‘Karishma Hills’ on the outskirts of Bangalore in the name of [third son] Karna and work on a new house has begun. I have bequeathed my Padmanabhnagar house, Amma, and a flat to my daughter Bhavana. The other house in Seshadripuram is already with my other daughter Chetana. At the moment, my wife Lalitha, mother-in-law, children, grandchildren, me and the dog stay in our Banashankari house, Ammi Jaan.

“Last year, I had purchased a house that [woman Friday] Nivedita had bought and donated it to Seena (nick name of Srinivas), who has been with me and been my shadow for nearly 30 years.

“As for my office, my friends keep teasing me,  ‘This is your Brindavana’. In Brahmin patois, Brindavana means final resting place. This office is my own.

“I have only one bank account, at Karnataka Bank, and have debts of nearly Rs 4 crore.

“Last year, I paid income-tax of Rs 54,44,450.

“Both the newspaper and the publishing house are in the black. The monthly employee costs of Hi Bangalore! is about Rs 4,20,000, and Nivedita is the highest-paid employee.

“There are 349 employees in Prarthana School which has 5,900 students. Their annual wage bill is Rs 2,00,82,000. Prarthana has four buildings of its own, and a small playground. Besides, I have rented two rooms. This year,too, principal Sheela was honoured by the government for the 100% pass-rate in SSLC.

“As you are aware, I devote a portion of my profits for poor students and the sick and ailing. Several children, all the way up to engineering and medical students, are availing the scholarship instituted in the name of my friend ‘SitanadiSurendra. The good news this year is that one of the girls is appearing for the IAS. Tens of heart and kidney patients, cancer victims, HIV-afflicted are benefitting from the donations.

“All the money for these ventures comes from you, the reader. My task is merely to distribute it.

“This year, thanks to my laziness, I did not write a single book. The publication of O Manase suffered hiccups for the same reason.

“From the moment Hi Bangalore! was born, my friend R.T. Vittal Murthy has been with me through thick and thin. He is my biggest asset.

“After this declaration, what more is there to admit?”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: ‘Editors and senior journalists must declare assets’

‘Vijaya Next’ gives ToI Crest a Kannada avatar

28 May 2010

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: The Times of India group has unveiled its latest product in Bangalore: Vijaya Next, a broadsheet, all-colour, Kannada weekly for the “upwardly mobile Kannadiga population“.

The 24-page Friday offering, priced at Rs 6, is a customised version of the Crest edition of The Times of India, complete with shades of its aquamarine colour.

And like Crest, the product offering has the usual “upmarket” mix of relationships, health, education, sex, travel, food, fitness, films, celebrities, automotive, gadgets, and sport.

The strategy behind the hurried launch of Vijaya Next, according to insiders, is essentially the same as ToI’s Crest: to slip it along with the group’s flagship Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka every week and get more out of the customer’s monthly newspaper bill without increasing the cover price of Vijaya Karnataka.

Vijaya Next is edited by Deepak Thimaya, a well-known TV anchor with almost no newspaper journalism experience on his resume barring a few columns, and is produced by residual staff from the Kannada edition of The Times of India, which was shut down in early March at a day’s notice.

(The Kannada edition of ToI had itself been launched in quest of a similar “upwardly mobile” Kannadiga audience after shutting Usha Kirana, the Kannada newspaper that fell into the group’s lap when it bought Vijaya Karnataka and the now-defunct Vijay Times from BJP parliamentarian Vijay Sankeshwar.)

Vijaya Next has been grandly proclaimed in a full-page ad in today’s Times of India (Bangalore market) as the “first-ever Kannada weekly“, although what that means is unclear when full-fledged features weekly magazines such as Sudha from the Praja Vani group and Taranga from the Udaya Vani group, have been available for decades.

Also, there are innumerable Kannada weekly tabloids, part news, part features and part crime, such as Hi! Bangalore, Lankesh, Agni and so on. Most of them do not carry advertisements as a matter of policy and are priced at between Rs 12 and Rs 15 per copy, giving Vijaya Next a price advantage.

But there is little confusion on what the brand managers mean when they say that Vijaya Next will take an “entertaining look” at the world and stories and issues that matter to you.

“Now read all di stories that matter, nimmade bhasheyalli (now read all the stories that matter in your own language),” reads the copy of a half-Kannada, half-English, half-page ad that runs in Vijaya Karnataka, which has lost considerable ground to the Deccan Herald-owned Praja Vani in the last two rounds of the ABC.

If nothing else, Vijaya Next will muddy the waters before Rajeev Chandasekhar‘s Jupiter group begins ploughing in money into Kannada Prabha, in which he bought a stake recently. It will also perhaps prevent him from finding people to staff the paper. Many of the ToI Kannada staff were absorbed in Vijaya Karnataka as a preemptive measure.

Also read: The Times of India to shut down Kannada edition

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