Posts Tagged ‘News Corp’

Why Shobhana Bhartia was late for PM’s breakfast

12 April 2014

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As is only to be expected, a number of journalists figure in former Economic Times, Times of India and Financial Express journalist Sanjaya Baru‘s book ‘The Accidental Prime Minister‘ (Penguin), on his days as the PM’s media advisor.

But a few publishers and head honchos do too, including Prannoy Roy of NDTV, Samir Jain of The Times of India and his mother Indu Jain, and Shobhana Bhartia of Hindustan Times.

***

In May 2005, as the UPA approached its first anniversary, reports began to appear that the PM was reviewing the performance of his ministers.

On 9 May, when he was in Moscow, NDTV ran a story that external affairs minister Natwar Singh had secured a ‘low’ score on the PM’s ‘report card’ and was likely to be dropped from the Cabinet.

Natwar was most unhappy and took the day off on ‘health grounds’.

This news reached the PM in Moscow when he was in the midst of a briefing at his hotel. He asked me to find out what exactly NDTV had reported.

When I brief him he burst out angrily, ‘Tell Prannoy to stop reporting these lies.’

I called Prannoy Roy and had just begun speaking to him when the PM asked for my mobile phone and spoke to Prannoy himself, scolding him like he was chiding a student who had erred, saying, ‘This is not correct. You cannot report like this.’

Indeed, the relationship between him and Pranny was not that of a PM and senior media editor but more like that of a former boss and a one-time junior,. This was because Prannoy had worked as an economic adviser in the miistry of finance under Dr Singh.

After a few minutes, Prannoy called me back.

‘Are you still with him?’ he asked

I stepped out of the room and told him that I was now alone.

‘Boy, I have not been scolded like that since school! He sounded like a headmaster, not a prime minister,’ complained Prannoy.

***

Rupert Muroch (of Star TV and News Corp) tried a trick to secure an appointment (with the PM).

Having failed on one occasion to meet Dr Singh, he made a second attempt by letting it be known that he was not interested in talking about his media business. Rather, he wanted to talk about China.

The PM was amused and granted him an appointment. Murdoch did duscuss China and explained where he saw China going. But, as he got up to leave, he expressed the hope that the Indian government would be more receptive to his media plan than China had been.

***

Within the PMO, (former national security advisor) Mani Dixit’s imperious style inevitably came into conflict with my own more freewheeling and irreverent style of functioning.

Our first disagreement was on who could travel with the PM on his official plane.

Seeing the name of Times of India journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, who later served as editor of The Hindu, on the media list, Mani sent me a note informing me that Siddharth was not an Indian national but an American citizen and, as a foreign national, was not entitled to travel on the PM’s plane.

I was aware of Siddharth’s citizenship, since this matter had come up when I had hired him as an assistant editor of the Times of India.

I chose not to make an issue of it then and Samir Jain, vice chairman of Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, the publishers of The Times of India, who took particular interest in the hiring of editorial writers, did not object either. Now the matter had surfaced again.

***

I arranged a series of breakfast meetings with important editors, publishers and TV anchors. As an early riser Dr Singh would schedule his breakfast meetings for half past eight being late to bed and late to rise, editors and TV anchors would protest but turn up on time.

When I invited a group of publishers, the only ones to arrive late were Shobhana Bhartia of Hindustan Times because, as she tole me, she took a long time to dry her hair and Indu Jain, chairperson of the Times of India, because she had to finish her morning puja.

Also read: Kuldip Nayar on Shekhar Gupta, N. Ram & Co

B.G. Verghese: a deep mind with a straight spine who stands tall

Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar, et al

Jug Suraiya on MJ, SJ, Giri, Monu and Mama T

When Samir Jain served a thali, Vineet served a scoop

Media baron donates most to parties after Birlas

11 January 2012

The Economic Times has run a list of companies who made legal donations to political parties in 2009-10 based on a  list compiled by the association for democratic reforms (ADR).

At no.2—ahead of even the Tatas and ITC—with a total donation of Rs 12.5 crore (Rs 10 crore for the BJP and Rs 2.5 crore for the Congress) is Asianet TV holdings, of the mobile phone operator turned media baron Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

Chandrasekhar, an independent member of the Rajya Sabha elected with BJP support, owns the Asianet News channel in Kerala and the Suvarna News channel in Karnataka, and recently bought the Kannada Prabha newspaper from the New Indian Express group.

Chandrasekhar who also owned several general entertainment channels in Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu entered into a joint venture with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

A Reuters backgrounder contains this operative paragraph:

“Asianet Communications Limited, which is a joint venture with Asianet TV Holdings Private Limited, was formed to provide television services for South Indian audiences. The joint venture consists of the Company’s (News Corp’s) approximate 81% interest in the Tamil language channel Vijay and the Company’s (News Corp’s) approximate 75% interest in the Malayalam language channels Asianet and Asianet Plus, the Kannada language channel Suvarna and the Telugu language channel Sitara.”

An ADR analysis (page 8 of 28) pegs Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s total assets at Rs 37 crore—Rs 12 crore in movable assets and Rs 25 crore in immovable assets.

Also read: Rajeev Chandrasekhar buying a Malayalam daily?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar eyeing Deccan Herald?

Everybody loves to claim credit for the 2G expose

10 media barons in India Today power list of 50

Rupert Murdoch on India, China and democracy

21 September 2008

The controversial media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, on India and China, in Esquire:

“Any company that is global cannot ignore China or India. They are just enormous, emerging great powers. I enjoy China. I have a lot of friends there. But all we have there are the moment is a few very minor investments.

“India is different. India is a democracy—imperfect, but a democracy. And there is a rule of law there where you know exactly where you stand. It’s a difficlt country. There are so many languages. We’re just beginning to spread beyond Hindi into other languages so our channels will become more national.”

Read the full article: Rupert Murdoch has potential

Rupert Murdoch eyeing print space in India?

28 April 2008

There have been persistent rumours of it for a while now. Now Business Standard reports that Rupert Murdoch‘s Star group is indeed planning a foray in the print media in India.

Top executives of Star are believed to have visited Bangalore and held talks with liquor baron Vijay Mallya for a possible joint venture. Mallya owned the Tamil satellite channel Vijay TV before he sold it to Star. He also held the Bangalore franchise of Asian Age before letting go of it.

The possibility of Murdoch tying up with Aveek Sarkar‘s Ananda Bazaar Patrika group of Calcutta is also in the air. When rules of foreign direct investment in Indian television changed, ABP picked up Star’s stake. The two groups have also collaborated to launched the Bengali channel, Star Ananda.

Murdoch and Sarkar featured in Nicholas Coleridge‘s biography of the world’s great publishers, Paper Tigers, along with two other Indians, Samir Jain and Ramnath Goenka.

Photograph: courtesy New York magazine

Also read: How Murdoch dumbed down television news

All this, and Star Vijay and Star Bangla

An urgent telegram to Shri Rupert Murdoch

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