Posts Tagged ‘Pradyuman Maheshwari’

12 gems from a response to a TOI legal notice

24 May 2013

Picture

There’s something decidedly execrable when a media company thinks it is well within its rights to use its might to silence another media company or media professional with a fire-and-brimstone legal threat.

Even more so, when a 175-year-old media giant like The Times of India group picks on a 22-year-old girl.

In April, lawyers representing Times Publishing House, a Times subsidiary, tried to scare Aparajita Lath (in picture), a student of the national institute of juridical sciences (NUJS), with civil and criminal action for writing a 669-word blog post in February 2013 capturing the Times group’s long-drawn trademark tussle with the Financial Times of London.

The Times lawyers probably expected a cowering apology.

What they got instead was a rocket from Shamnad Basheer, the founder of SpicyIP.com and a chaired professor of IP law at the NUJS, who also recommended an IQ test for the Times lawyer.

Usually, lawyers go all weak in the knees when taken on by a Goliath. But Basheer’s 5-page response to the Times‘ 7-page notice “most unapologetically” speaks truth to power with candour. It’s an object lesson to media companies which try to silence critics, and an even bigger lesson to law firms.

Here are 12 standout sentences from Basheer’s response:

1) “We strongly object to the vile language and the highly aggressive tone used in the notice. We can respond in kind, but we choose to be a bit more civil with you.”

2) “You choose to issue this highly malevolent letter, hoping to intimidate us into a meek apology. Unfortunately, while the meek may inherit the earth, they are bound to be shown no favour by corporate powerhouses such as your client.”

3) “So, let’s cut to the chase and explore your alleged grievances articulated rather flatulently in over seven pages of a highly intemperate legal notice.

4) “We could send you stacks of material originating from your client that cause the same [shock] effect on us, particularly the numerous page 3 images that continue to assault us on an almost daily basis.

5) “As any law student in a decent law school will inform you, in order to constitute the legal wrong of defamation, you need to prove that the statements made by us necessarily lowered the reputation of your client in the eyes of a “reasonable” public.

6) “We assumed that as a qualified lawyer, you are well aware of the distinction between an opinion and a fact…. If the law has changed in this regard, please to intimate us, so that we may notify our readers of this sea change, which has gone unnoticed, without so much as a whisper.

7) “… we are prepared to issue a clarification. However, we will do so only upon your sending us a more polite letter seeking this clarification. ‘Please” and “thank you” are words that have unfortunately become relics in this fast pace world of ours, and even more so with fast paced lawyers such as yourselves.

8) “We fail to understand how any reasonable reader would have arrived at such a fanciful conclusion. And those that do are in dire need of a serious IQ check. We believe there are several robust online tests floating around these days, should you wish to take one of them.

9) “Apparently you’ve not sent Mint a legal notice as yet. We can only guess that you’re averse to picking people your own size…. We’re guessing that you’ve shied away from sending a legal notice to Harish Salve, widely acknowledged as a leading legal luminary and heavyweight [quoted in the Mint article and the blogger's story].

10)  “We are particularly amused at your allegation that a 22-year-old law student caused “irreparable injury” and “loss of reputation” to a powerful media house by highlighting a highly technical trademark dispute of public importance and reflecting on the protracted nature of the litigation. Continue to amuse us, and we may begin to reciprocate.

11) “It is surprising how you’ve twisted simple sentences . We belong to the land of yoga, no doubt, but this is simply too much of a stretch. Clearly, neither your client nor Financial Times Limited are ‘hapless’ when both have been spending crores of rupees in fighting this protracted legal battle for more than 20-odd years!

12) “If you continue with this character assassination and threaten us any further, we will be constrained to initiate legal proceedings against you. This will needlessly fill the coffer of two sets of lawyers but perhaps that’s what you really want. In the sincere hope that your client is smarter than you, we remain, most unapologetically yours.”

For the record, advocate Ashish Verma signed the Times legal notice for the Delhi-based K. Datta & Associates.

Also for the record, a similar notice was served on Paranjoy Guha Thakurta for writing the Mint article, although Mint, which is owned by Hindustan Times, has been spared the agony.

Photograph: courtesy Spicy IP

Also readThrice-bitten, will FT find real love again?

Financial Times takes on The Times of India

Now The Times of India takes on Financial Times

***

The Hindu threatens to sue The Indian Express

Bloomberg threatens to sue CNBC-TV18

Shekhar Gupta threatens to sue Vinod Mehta, et al

Editors’ Guild backs Times Now in libel case

***

External reading: Was Times right to take on blogger?

How to write an editorial when not “jet-lagged”

27 October 2010

If “jetlag” can prevent a mighty editor from noticing that a tiger has slept with a tornado and their baby has married an earthquake in the “Indian State of Tamil Nadu”, what must it be for lesser editors* in other Indian states?

Pradyuman Maheshwari, the group chief editor of the industry journal Impact (owned by the exchange4media group), describes a day in the life of an editor in Bombay on the day he has to, well, write an editorial:

“A typical Friday: an early-morning alarm to ensure that the daughter gets up on time. Boil the milk, get her dabba ready, drop her off to school, return, look up the notice board in the building to see if there are any important notices, read the papers, see if there have been any misses, check mail, make a few calls, go for a walk, some stretches and crunches, chat with editor over a painful exchange of messages with a media biggie, shower, 90 minutes in traffic, get to work, some people not in, a colleague down with malaria so a story can’t go this week, several calls, pesky PR executives, some friendly ones too, credit-card DSAs, more DSAs, car loan, property sale, meetings, brief colleague on a story, send off important mails, plan Diwali chhutti, make an important call, push a meeting by a day, check on content for a feature… the day goes on.

“And in the midst of all of this, write the edit.

“Wish I could have it ghostwriten… can I get the able assistant editor to do it for me this week? Can I just get something interesting written somewhere, copy-paste here and just add a comment or two? Can I pull out my book of quotes and pepper the edit with these? Or just look at my ten best quotes for the day?

“Life’s a bitch. Home-traffic-meetings-office-meetings-calls-traffic-office-meetings-lunch-coffee-meetings-traffic-dinner-traffic-home-homework-TV-sleep. Well, it’s quite a jetlagged existence to borrow from something I read in another edit recently.

“So how do I write the Impact editorial for this week? Do I pick up stuff about a subject that’s been written about from another source? Well, as the editor of this publication, the least I must do is spend a few minutes and connect with you via a few hundred-odd words. If I had wanted to, I could’ve asked for an edit not to be part of the magazine grid with an excuse of ‘who reads them anyway’ or whatever.

“But no way will my edit be ghostwritten, and if it is written by someone else, then it will bear his or her name….”

*Disclosures apply!

Also read: The editorial

The original

The scandal

The non-apologetic apology

Amitabh Bachchan versus the Mumbai Mirror

20 February 2010

Amitabh Bachchan, who only eight months ago confessed he wanted to be a journalist in his next life, continues to have problems with those practising the craft in their current life.

Four months ago, the BBC’s star of the millennium” was in a tug-of-war with Abhijit Mazumder of MiD-DaY. Earlier this week, he had problems with Kaveree Bamzai of India Today.

Today Bachchan, who played the conscientious media baron Vijay Harshvardhan Malik in Rann two weeks ago, is sparring with The Times of India group and Meenal Baghel of Mumbai Mirror.

The tabloid from the Bennett, Coleman stable, issued free with The Times of India in Bombay, ran a story attributed to “Mumbai Mirror Bureau” on his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai allegedly having problems in conceiving due to stomach tuberculosis.

“It’s no secret that Aishwarya is 37, and she isn’t getting any younger. But it now comes to light that the reason for her inability to bear a child at the moment is because she has been suffering from stomach tuberculosis for a while.

“Says a source, ‘The medication Aishwarya is taking for her stomach ailment is hampering her from getting pregnant. Until the tuberculosis is fully cured, she is unlikely to risk a pregnancy’,” reads the operative portion from the story.

Aishwarya Rai denied the story on the day it appeared, calling it false and fabricated, which the paper carried in full.

Now, Bachchan, who, according to Mumbai Mirror, is said to have described the ailment as rich man’s TB on his blog, has blogged back against the “soiled and unworthy piece of garbage” in post number 669, demanding an apology and a retraction for the “debased journalism”.

“The unprofessional and slanderous nature of this article in such an esteemed and respected newspaper as the Mumbai Mirror is deeply disturbing. It brings the author of this article into disrepute. It brings the editor that published this article into disrepute. It brings this particular newspaper into disrepute.

“Due to the illicit nature of this slander, I request a retraction and full apology. The full apology comprises the names of the individual journalist and chief editor, the journalist’s and editor’s unqualified retraction and refutation of the contents of thearticle, the apology should be addressed to both Aishwarya Rai Bachchan first and specifically, and also to the Bachchan family in general.

“The apology is to be printed on the first page of the entertainment section of the Mumbai Mirror on the same page, in the same size print, and including the signatures of the aforementioned journalist and editor and an immediate donation of a sum of (amount to be decided by members of my extended family of the blog) to a national charitable foundation of your choosing that supports those who suffer fromtuberculosis and an article in your newspaper highlighting its work.”

Newspaper screenshot: courtesy Mumbai Mirror

Also read: ‘FIR is not a license to titillate or sensationalise’

Pradyuman Maheshwari: Will someone ask Amitabh Bachchan to keep a check on what he blogs?

Times Private Treaties: the full list of ‘partners’

17 May 2009

The following is the full and unexpurgated portfolio of Times Private Treaties, the equity-for-ads investment arm of The Times of India group as on 11 May 2009.

The list of clients as per industry has had disappeared from the Times Private Treaties website following the recent media scrutiny, and the Google cache has had also been cleared [before it was recently restored].

tpt

Also read: Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

Sucheta Dalal in public row on private treaties

It’s April 1, and the joke is on us (and them)

31 March 2009

On exchange4media, group editor Pradyuman Maheshwari lists the 10 April Fool’s Day headlines he wishes would turn out to be true:

#09: Newspapers up cover price. Times/HT/Hindu/DNA now priced at Rs 10; ET/BS/Mint at Rs 15: The Indian Newspaper Society steps in to convince the leading newspapers of the country—including regional biggies like The Telegraph, Deccan Herald, etc—to participate. Some low circulation newspapers may be exempted from the move. Regional papers to follow suit.

# 01: Times shuts Medianet, no editorial guarantee on Treaties: Although many people who would have otherwise not merited any coverage in Bombay Times/Delhi Times, etc., are very unhappy about it, Times has shut its Medianet division. Also, those signed on under the very successful Private Treaties programme have been told that there will be no guarantee of editorial plugs just because the Times Group has picked up stake.

Read the full article: 10 April Fool headlines

Also read: We can’t fool all the people all the time?

How a giant pig fooled the American media

The ultimate April Fool’s Day joke

‘The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility’

28 January 2008

The Times of India group’s decision to make strategic investments in mid-level companies, in return for guaranteed advertising and editorial exposure in the group’s publications and media vehicles, through the quaintly named “Private Treaties“, has had several other media houses following suit.

Hindustan Times is said to be well on its way to establishing a similar division. Television majors like NDTV and CNBC are following suit. And as if to show that language publications are not lagging behind, influential Hindi groups like Dainik Bhaskar and Dainik Jagran are also off the blocks.

SALIL TRIPATHI, the London-based journalist, formerly with India Today and The Indian Post, and whose work has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Far Eastern Economic Review, and International Herald Tribune, among other publications, writes of the damage these wheels-within-wheels deals cause.

***

By SALIL TRIPATHI in London

Most serious and professional newspapers recognize the need to separate editorial and advertising. The Wall Street Journal goes further, separating fact and opinion. So do other major US newspapers, but WSJ‘s distinctness stems from separate management structures for both.

At the convention of the South Asian Journalists’ Association (SAJA), New York Times editor Bill Keller said that the management structure of the edit page and news pages at the NYT, too, were separate. Which is how it should be, but all newspapers don’t have the luxury of such a roster of writers and management structures.

When editorial and advertising blend, the first casualty is credibility. A reader simply cannot know if a particular company, product, or an idea being promoted is because there’s a mass base of support for it, or because some experts like it, or is it because of financial considerations.

The Times of India‘s new business concept, Private Treaties, is audacious, innovative, and breathtaking. And incredibly underwhelming. It trades advertising for equity in companies.

As described in its poorly-designed, shoddily-edited, and jargon-filled website, it creates intangible value for companies in which the TOI group has a stake, by highlighting its intangible qualities, through the medium of TOI‘s publications.

If all that it means is a promotion restricted to discounted rates for advertising in the TOI, that would be simple enough, and acceptable to most purists in journalism. But with the Times you are never sure. In the past, it has encouraged its reporters to go on junkets to tourist resorts, and not always revealed the nature of the hospitality received.

When the Times group has launched its own businesses such as music, entertainment and so on, using prominent Indian performers, the newspaper’s page 1 has to give way to stories about that event, as though it is the most talked about event in town, if not the only event in town.

I recall in the mid-1990s, there were days of reporting on a modern ballet called Yes!, being staged under the choreography of my classmate from college in Bombay, the gifted dancer Shiamak Davar. The editor-in-chief would call senior Times editors to get hold of writers who’d say nice things about Yes!

A tax raid on TOI‘s owners in the 1980s got barely a mention in the newspaper.

When things got tough, the Jain family’s tax battles with the Indian government were cast as a human rights issue. A writer on the TOI edit page went on a junket with a European pharmaceutical company, and wrote an edit page piece extolling the medicine. Nothing wrong with a story about health on the TOI‘s edit page, but something was rotten in the state of Bori Bunder, if such a story appeared out of the blue, and no rival brand got similar coverage, or even comparison in that piece.

Then, the Times went the whole hog, with features like Impact and Spotlight, when news articles appeared on news pages, which were essentially advertisements.

When a plucky blog, Mediaah! ridiculed some of the practices at the Old Lady of Bori Bunder, the Times‘s legal eagles threatened to sue the website. Pradyuman Maheshwari, the spirited journalist who kept it going, decided to close shop. It is, therefore, refreshing to see Times‘s Gautam Adhikari writing that his paper believes in publish-and-be-damned liberalism.

It is against this background that the Private Treaties are highly suspect.

However much the Times might claim that it keeps editorial and advertising separate – when we know that’s not really the case—there will be an impact. A reporter chasing a story against a company in which the Times group has an equity stake will feel obliged to go softly. A reporter chasing a scandal involving a film star whose music is marketed by the Times group, will view the release of the CD differently.

It is so obvious, that it does not even need stating.

A property scandal, or a scam, involving a company that advertises in the newspaper may be problematic for some editors; how much more complicated it can get when the Times group has an equity stake in that company? And wouldn’t the negative story drive down the value of the investment?

There are sound reasons why across the world, editors try to keep editorial and advertising separate, to enhance the credibility of the editorial matter. When I worked with a US-owned magazine (Far Eastern Economic Review) and wrote an extensive piece on conflict of interest within some leading US investment banks, even though those banks were prominent advertisers in my magazine, at no stage did any editor tell me to go easy on that story.

At the Dow Jones group, reporters cannot own stocks in companies they write about. Other major US papers have similar codes.

In my reporting days in Bombay in the 1980s, I’ve seen, with great dismay, financial reporters of several leading Indian dailies rushing out of a press conference where a company has declared its results, to make phone calls to their brokers to buy or sell shares (there were no cell phones then).

Mint, the new business daily launched by the Hindustan Times group, has transparently placed its code of conduct on the web. It also recently declared to its readers how it would publish advertorials, and how they would be distinct from edit pages, and how edit staff would not be involved in preparing them. (The International Herald Tribune and other American publications do likewise).

Unless the Times institutes similar safeguards, it would seem that Private Treaties marks another step in the journey the Times—”the leader [that] guards the reader”—has taken, transforming the nature of journalism.

In the late 1980s, the Times group had begun distributing promotional products in a plastic bag, together with the magazine, Illustrated Weekly of India, which the Times used to publish. We used to throw those products away, preferring to read the magazine. Now the magazine is gone; the toothpaste remains.

Hopefully, the Times, in its drive to enhance the value of companies it invests in through this innovative mechanism, will also attach some value to its readers.

Disclosure: I write frequently for Mint, and the Wall Street Journal‘s international editions; often for the International Herald Tribune, and on rare occasions for the Times of India. But this is not a case of sour grapes.

Photograph: courtesy saliltripathi.com

Also read: SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t trust the ads either

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,222 other followers

%d bloggers like this: