Posts Tagged ‘Prannoy Roy’

Why Shobhana Bhartia was late for PM’s breakfast

12 April 2014

glitterati_manmoahn_shobhana_bhartiya_20051128

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

The saplings Usha Rai planted on our Fleet Street

8 August 2011

Delhi is celebrating its centenary as the capital of India, and a number of newspapers led by the Hindustan Times have been using the opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane.

 The Hindu Business Line too is running a series, and the sports journalist Norris Pritam (left) turned his eyes on the Fleet Street of India—Bahadurshah Zafar Marg—where a number of newspapers (The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Pioneer, et al) and their allied publications are headquartered.

Pritam’s reminiscence contains a number of anecdotes from some of the more permanent residents of the lane, who have watched the B.Z. Marg scenery change in more ways than one.

# “In the good old days, just three cars were parked in front of Indian Express,” recalls R. Ramachandran, who worked as editorial assistant with seven editors. “It was an Italian Fiat of S. Mulgaonkar, a Premier Padmini of Ramnath Goenka and a Dodge of Saroj Goenka.”

# Satya Dev Prasad, popularly known as Panditji, has been running a paan shop outside Express since 1977. “Why just the traffic, even journalists have changed. “Now you don’t have people like Verghese saheb (B.G. Verghese). When his son was getting married he (Verghese) asked me to photocopy some wedding ceremony papers on office machine, but paid for it.”

# For some of the young and more enterprising, the walks also afforded a brief ogling session. I won’t reveal more, but let me confess we were quite intrigued by a young girl in black tights who used to come out of the Times Building. Very quiet and serious looking, she always carried some fancy files and books. I never got a chance to ask her about those files. Now I find her anchoring CNN-IBN talk shows with aplomb! Yes, Sagarika Ghose it was.

# Fleet Street has an even stronger connection with NDTV. In the 1980s, Radhika Roy was chief sub-editor at the Express and Prannoy Roy, now founder and chairman NDTV, used to pick her up after work. In white shorts and T-shirt, after a session of squash I guess, he would often come to me at the sports desk to check county cricket results. It was still the days of old-fashioned PTI ticker and I gave him the teleprinter copies.

# Amidst all the drastic changes, perhaps the only thing that remains unchanged, apart from the buildings, are the few trees that Usha Rai (left) had planted in front of TOI and Express building. The saplings have turned into mature trees and provide much-wanted shade to the paan shops run by Panditji and his colleague Birbal. “I wish there were more Usha Rais in the profession,” sighs Panditji.

Map: courtesy Maps of India

Read the full article: Delhi’s Akhbaar road

‘Zee is the only news channel making money’

5 July 2011

The mention of TV news in India brings up the usual names among news aficionados—Times Now, NDTV 24×7 and NDTV India, Aaj Tak and Headlines Today, CNN-IBN and IBN Awaaz, et al.

But there is another player in the ring from India’s oldest satellite network. And Zee News, says its CEO Punit Goenka, is the only one among the lot making money.

In an interview in the 1 July 2011 issue of Campaign India, Goenka says:

“The news business is doing phenomenally well for Zee. We are the only news entity in the country that makes money. All other news entitites in this country are losing money as of today. From that perspective, that’s working well.

“We have to expand in the news genre in order to enter into the English language (news sphere). We have so far been focusing on Hindi and other regional markets which have done really well. Now we’ll be rolling out in the next two to three years into the English languages.”

Also read: ‘The end-game is near for both TV18 and NDTV’

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

How serious is the trouble at CNBC and CNN-IBN?

‘Yeh thi khabrein Aaj Tak. Intzaar kijiye kal tak’

27 June 2011

Fourteen years ago today, Surendra Pratap Singh aka S.P. Singh, the founder-anchor of Aaj Tak, the 30-minute Hindi news bulletin that became a 24×7 news channel, breathed his last after a fortnight-long battle for life.

“SP” was one of the first print journalists to successfully graduate to television—he had edited the Hindi  daily Navbharat Times and the weekly Ravivar—and his daily bulletin “expanded the limits of television journalism in a never-before fashion with its common man’s eye view style“.

Singh passed away at age 49 just before Aaj Tak could turn into a full-fledged news channel after the government decided not to renew its contract with Doordarshan. But by then he had inspired a whole new crop of television stars: Dibang, Sanjay Pugalia and Ashutosh to give just three examples.

Today, on Twitter, a few of his friends and colleagues have been remembering a mentor and a pioneer:

***

DIBANG: June 27, 1997: We lost the most credible face of Indian TV news, founder of Aaj Tak, Surendra Pratap Singh! These days, I deeply miss SP!

NARAYANAN MADHAVAN: S.P. Singh. Father of credible Hindi news journalism, founder of Brand Aaj Tak (not the one you see today)

MILIND KHANDEKAR: No words can explain the loss…

DIBANG: With all that’s happening to media and in media, SP would have been the best guide/mentor! Media would have been different.

PRAGYA MOHANTY: He was the first person reading news who smiled. Like really.:)

DIBANG: Agree with you and what an assuring smile. Was great education just hanging around him. Miss him deeply.

PRAGYA MOHANTY: The way SP began treating news, even viewers learnt to discern. He made news watching engaging. Gosh! Such nostalgia.

DIBANG: So true! He had a great ability to discern what is news. He never touched what’s past and what’s yet to be!

DIBANG: He knew what is news, he had that ‘pakad‘, and when he read news it was reflected in his expressions, his voice, his body language.

PRAGYA MOHANTY: Pakad is the word. (Prannoy Roy‘s) The World This Week was more like a theory class and watching SP was like attending the practicals.

DIBANG: Yeh thi khabrein aaj tak, Intzaar kijiye kal tak. Was always in studio with him when he read the news.

DIBANG: When he fell in the bathroom. He called out his wife Shikha (Trivedy) and told her: Dibang ko jaldi bulao. Those are his last words.

DIBANG: It was a Monday when we took SP to hospital. He wasn’t conscious, never returned. Was with him whole of that sunday. I remember all the conversation i had with him that Sunday. For us its like he is still there with us.

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, NDTV & Prannoy Roy

19 May 2011

In conversation number #132 in the infamous Niira Radia tapes, the lobbyist whose name has become synonymous with the 2G scam, talks to M.K. Venu, then of The Economic Times, in July 2009:

Venu: Is Manoj (Modi) is here (in Delhi) today also, no?

Radia: Yeah, he is here, he is leaving in the afternoon, later part of the afternoon. We are meeting Prannoy (Roy of NDTV) today. We need to support Prannoy, you know… We feel it needs to be supported.

Now, the penny drops.

Money Life, the personal finance magazine run by the investigative journalist Sucheta Dalal, reports that the American investment firm D.E. Shaw has picked up a 14.2% stake in NDTV, providing an exit to another blue chip investor, Goldman Sachs, which held an equivalent stake.

Reports Money Life:

“Interestingly, the D.E. Shaw investment in NDTV has happened in less than two weeks since it joined hands with Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) to enter the Indian financial services sector. Now we know that Mukesh Ambani has a soft spot for NDTV’s promoters and anchors and that they had previously approached him for an investment.”

Manoj Modi is Mukesh Ambani’s Man Friday. Niira Radia represented Mukesh Ambani and counted NDTV Imagine among her many clients before the 2G scam broke.

M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian reported in March that Radia was behind the January 2010 launch of a book by bureaucrat-turned-politician N.K. Singh in London, for which Ambani, Venu and NDTV’s Barkha Dutt travelled together on the same plane.

Read the full article: NDTV continues to find buyers

Listen to the conversation: #132 M.K. Venu: July 09, 2009

Radia effect on PM’s invitees for TV pow-wow?

16 February 2011

Prime minister Manmohan Singh‘s much ballyhooed pow-wow with “editors” of television channels to clear the air over the scams dogging his government, was, as was to be expected, a typically tepid, bureaucratic affair.

Only the national English TV channels—Headlines Today (represented by Aroon Purie), CNN-IBN (Rajdeep Sardesai), NDTV 24×7 (Prannoy Roy), Times Now (Arnab Goswami)—were interested in asking questions (and suplementaries, much to media advisor Harish Khare‘s discomfiture) about corruption.

Most of the rest, be they from regional channels like Sun TV, Calcutta TV or Asianet, or “international channels” like BBC and Al-Jazeera, were content with asking questions relevant to their audiences and markets (Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Europe, Middle East).

Questions are already doing the rounds on why some sizeable channels like Star News, TV9, etc, went unrepresented. And rumours are already doing the rounds on why at least one sizeable editor was absent.

Radhika Ramaseshan reports in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The owner of an English channel had been requested to be present instead of deputing a colleague.

“The owner-editor of another Delhi-based channel was also told he would be welcome. Other channels were sent a general invite.

“The caution came against the backdrop of the Niira Radia tapes featuring conversations of some journalists.”

Also read: Did Niira Radia tapes have impact on Padma awards?

An open application to Prannoy Roy, c/o NDTV

19 December 2010

Respected Dr Roy,

I am writing to apply for the post of Group Editor, English News, NDTV.

I am a journalist with 26 years’ experience. Throughout my career I have made innocent mistakes. I have been silly, I have been gullible and I have been prone to making errors of judgement.

Frequently, when I am “desperate for khabar” I also fib to sources. I string them along so much that I have often tied myself up in knots.

In short, I’m just the right guy to lead the nation’s most reputed English news channel.

I am aware, Sir, that you already have a silly, innocent and gullible editor prone to making honest errors of judgement. Those credentials were so clearly established on national prime time news the other day. Only an extremely innocent, very silly and highly gullible editor can do it with such aplomb.

Admittedly, Dr Roy, that’s a tough record to beat. But the silly are never daunted by the odds…recall that stuff about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.

I take heart from two facts: One, that you are perhaps the only editor-in-chief to value such sterling qualities in a group editor, and two, while you might be pretty happy with your in-house options, there are some good alternatives in the market you might want to look at.

It is your faith in and commitment to the cause of the ISGs (innocent, silly and gullible), Dr Roy, that has emboldened me to give the job a shot. I want to convince you that when it comes to these sterling qualities, I dig a lonely furrow… it’s actually a deep trench because I have been at it for 26 years.

Sir, I suspect you will be extremely upset at the completely unconventional way in which this application is being framed. So, let me quickly give you three examples of the work I have done so far.  Please judge me only by my work, not what I say about it on tape.

1. When I was just a few months into the profession,  Akali Dal leader Sant Longowal was assassinated. His assassination followed Indira Gandhi’s who was killed just a few months earlier. I had just subbed the copy when my chief sub asked me, “what’s the headline?”  “Longowal calls on Indira Gandhi,” I read out loud and proud.

The chief sub leaped out of her chair in horror and grabbed the copy. She called me silly and stupid. She even proclaimed me “dangerous” and banished me from the news desk.

You see, Dr Roy, I was editor material even then. Just that I was in wrong hands. Where were you, Dr Roy? I can’t help wondering, “why just Barkha, why is she so lucky”?

2. Once when I was editor of a small Delhi afternoon paper, we ran an expose on upcoming illegal structures in Connaught Place. We illustrated the story with a big picture of a multi-storey building shot stealthily. Next morning it turned out the building belonged to the newspaper’s proprietor.

Error of judgement is passé, Dr Roy, I have monumental blunders on my hand.

3. More recently, I was in the middle of writing Counterfeit, my most most-read weekly column on notional affairs. Two big corporate houses were warring over some goddamn national asset and I wanted to get to the bottom of things. Who better to get an insight from than the PR persons on both sides?

The first guy took me out to lunch and explained his client’s position. I was fully convinced he was right till the other PR took me out to lunch and explained her client’s position. I was convinced she was right too.

But I was two full, two convinced and too confused. So, I wrote about the food instead.

But then word got out. As you well know, our strict code of ethics lays down that a journalist can have only one free meal per topic. Fellow journalists were livid. But since nobody could prove quid pro quo, they pilloried me in public for being unethical and accused me in private of selling the profession cheap.

I am however convinced most of them were just jealous of the extra meal I managed…but that’s beside the point, the pillorying continued because they said “joh pakda gaya wahi chor”.

I had to take matters into my hand because the cat seemed to have gotten my channel’s tongue. I agreed to be grilled by my peers in full public glare. Four white haired gents turned up. For the first time the channel made a departure from the policy of not putting out any raw material on air and played the full unedited tape.

On air I made a clean breast of things.  “I may have been greedy, I may have been hungry, but nobody dare accuse me of corruption,” I said, clearly setting the contours of the debate. “But of course, it’s been a learning experience. Looking back now with all that one now knows about dirty lobbyists,  I have no hesitation in saying that it’s perhaps best to carry one’s own lunch box to work. I have since bought a Milton electric lunch box.”

“No journalist is lily white,” the oldest and gentlest of them all began, “I don’t know of many journalists who carry their tiffin to office….” but I cut him short.  ”Nobody is lily white but all that you will discuss is one spot on my kurta? Why only me,” I thundered. I wanted to punch all of them in their holier-than-thou faces but for form’s sake I just bit my dry lips and somehow held my temper and my hand.

Many close friends upbraided me for appearing on the show. They told me I looked angry, sounded pompous and arrogant. They advised me not to mention the incident in this application because it would look rather silly trying to get an important job on the evidence of this show.

But that is the point I’m trying to make, Dr Roy. I am silly. And I did not stumble on silliness, innocence and gullibility “inadvertently” after 16 years of blemish-less journalism.  I worked at it for 26 long years.

In other qualifications, I must point out that I am a damn good political reporter, even if I say so myself. In the thick of things such as the UPA’s cabinet formation, all kinds of people call me to carry messages to the Congress party. Sometimes there are problems of non-delivery such as that message I did not give Ghulam Nabi Azad but I believe, because I’m a good journalist, even if this were about the NDA forming its cabinet, I would still be a busy courier boy.

I would have loved to attach copies of my work as a political reporter but sadly, Dr Roy, I have none. That is because I have never reported politics.

I know, I know…that is not consistent with my claim to being a good political journalist. I was just stringing you along, Dr Roy.

When can I join?

Yours sincerely

B.V. Rao

***

B.V. Rao is the editor of Governance Now, where this piece originally appeared

***

Photograph: courtesy Governance Now

The PTI journo who scooped Obama interview

5 November 2010

For weeks ahead of US President Barack Obama‘s full visit to India in his first term in office, speculation was who would get the prized pre-tour interview.

The buzz was that The Times of India would get the print interview given its reach, while NDTV would get the television interview. NDTV’s Prannoy Roy was said to be camping in Washington, DC.

There was even speculation that Obama would give one-on-one interviews to a clutch of representatives of Indian media houses so that no one felt shortchanged.

But, in the end, an unlikely news source got the Obama interview first: Press Trust of India (PTI). And the man who secured the interview? Lalit K. Jha, the news agency’s principal US correspondent (in picture).

The Delhi University history honours graduate and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan journalism diploma holder’s interview made it to the front pages of most papers, but only The Indian Express gave him a byline.

The former Hindu and Hindustan Times reporter, with 12 years in the business, has been based in the United States since 2005, serving as North America correspondent for a number of South Asian publications,  including a Burmese magazine and the Afghan news agency.

Photograph: Jay Mandal/ On Assignment, courtesy Lalit K. Jha

10 media barons in India Today power list of 50

12 March 2010

Ronnie Screwvala of UTV, and Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy of NDTV, are the three prominent media names missing in India Today magazine’s annual ranking of the 50 most powerful people in India for the year of the lord, 2010.

Otherwise, this year’s list comprise the usual barons: Samir Jain and Vineet Jain of The Times of India group at No.8; Kalanidhi Maran of Sun TV at No. 16 (up eight places from last year); Raghav Bahl of TV18 at No. 17 (down from No. 15); Subhash Chandra of Zee at No. 22; Ramesh Agarwal and Sudhir Agarwal of Dainik Bhaskar and DNA at No. 30 (up five places from last year); Mahendra Mohan Gupta and Sanjay Gupta of Dainik Jagran at No. 33 (up from 39) ; and Rajeev Chandrasekhar of Asianet and Suvarna at No. 37 (up from 46, although India Today strangely claims he is a new entrant).

But the printer’s devil is in the details.

India Today says Vineet Jain is obsessive about the photogallery of Indiatimes, Samir about the layout of ToI‘s editorial page (an obsession that began in 1989); Maran, an amateur radio operator, is the highest-paid executive in India earning Rs 37 crore per annum; Bahl will publish a book on the political economy of India and China this August; Mahendra Mohan Gupta has acquired an Audi Q7; and Rajeev Chandrasekhar wears Canali suits or jackets, Stemar shoes and Jaeger le Coultre watches.

Also read: 26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

The 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros

A columnist more powerful than all the media barons

A house for Dr & Mrs Roy at Rs 270,000,000

An A-list most A-listers don’t want to be a part of

A columnist more ‘powerful’ than all media pros

31 January 2010

There are 12 media professionals—proprietors, promoters, publishers, editors—in the Indian Express list of the 100 most powerful Indians in 2010, but an irregular columnist is listed to be more powerful than all of them.

The quirky list, which makes no mention of the methodology or the jury, has two newcomers from the 2009 list—columnist Arun Shourie and TV anchor Barkha Dutt—and shows the door to three others.

Like last year, the IE list chronicles the kinks of the boldfaced names. And like year, Express has diligently kept editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta‘s name out of the reckoning.

***

# No. 38: Arun Shourie, journalist turned politician: “He asks all visitors to his library to take off their shoes before they enter.” (new entry)

# No. 53: Sameer Jain and Vineet Jain, chairman and managing director, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd: “Sameer’s daughter and son-in-law are being groomed to take leadership positions.”

# No. 70: N.Ram, editor-in-chief, The Hindu: “He is very fond of western classical music.”

# No. 72: Kalanidhi Maran and Dayanidhi Maran, Sun network: “Daya never misses his evening walk; Kalanidhi owns a Lamborghini.”

# No. 73: Raghav Bahl, founder Network 18: “The TV veteran is terribly camera-shy.”

# No. 76: Shobhana Bhartia, Hindustan Times: “Owns one of the finest sari collections among women entrepreneurs.”

# No. 77: M.M. Gupta and Sanjay Gupta, Dainik Jagran: “Sanjay is a fitness freak, uncle sets agenda at work.”

# No. 79: Aveek Sarkar, editor-in-chief, Ananda Bazaar Patrika Group: “He is in the business of news but doesn’t like to speak to the media.”

# No. 82: Barkha Dutt, group editor, NDTV: “A blogger who slammed her 26/11 coverage had to say sorry.” (new entry)

***

# Out from the 2009 list: Prannoy Roy, founder, NDTV (No. 61) ; Prabhu Chawla, editor, India Today (No. 71); Ramesh Chandra Agarwal, chairman, Daink Bhaskar (No. 88)

Also read: 26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

The 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant. Abusive. Dictatorial.’

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