Posts Tagged ‘Ratan Tata’

Then and Now: How TOI covered the Tata change

24 November 2011

There is a change at the top of Bombay House, the headquarters of the Tatas, and the manner in which it is covered by Bombay’s biggest media house, The Times of India, is illustrative of how much journalism has changed, and how much the way journalists look at business news has changed, in the last 20 years.

On top is the ToI news item announcing the appointment of Ratan N. Tata as the chairman, 20 Octobers ago, succeeding J.R.D. Tata. Below is today’s ToI front page, announcing the appointment of Ratan Tata’s successor, Cyrus P. Mistry.

# Then, the news of the appointment was not the lead story, it was probably second lead on columns 6,7 and 8, continued on “turn page”. Now, the news of the appointment earns lead story status. Business news is no longer anathema.

# Then, when print was king and television was not commonplace, the news of the appointment was conveyed as is in the headline. Now, with television and internet having broken the news 12 hours earlier, the lead headline is a smart pun.

# Then, the front-page picture was larger than the two tiny mugshots now. Interestingly, the 1981 picture had both the outgoing chairman and incoming chairman in one frame. Not so in the tightly controlled media atmosphere of 2011.

# Then, bylines were mostly anonymous. “By Our City Editor” was shorthand for our business editor, probably the veteran D.G. Gupte. On today’s front page, there are at least three bylines: Reeba Zacharaiah, Boby Kurien, Namrata Singh.

# Then, it was just news of the change. Now, there is plenty of backgrounding (“Why Cyrus? How he swung the vote”, “The Mistry connection”) plus a colour piece on his hobbies (“Avid golfer & foodie, avoids cocktail circuit”). Bollywood also sneaks into today’s front page with the slug “Being Cyrus”.

# Then, it was all black white, now there is a profusion of colour, although much of the colour now appears in the typography in the info-box in the absence of a good picture. Then it was just one story, now it is four stories, an infobox, two quotes and five pointers.

The Times of India‘s blanket coverage is also interesting because the paper was blacklisted twice during the outgoing chairman Ratan Tata. Once in protest at ToI’s coverage of the Tata Finance scandal, and then against the backdrop of the Niira Radia tapes, which proved to be a public relations disaster for the group.

Images: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: Why Ratan Tata hired Niira Radia

Have the Tatas blacklisted Times of India again?

Everybody loves a nice mutual admiration club

Four lessons in journalism from Tata’s chief PRO

Four lessons in journalism from Tata’s chief PRO

19 January 2011

Christabelle Noronha, corporate affairs chief of the Tata group, in a letter to the editor of the business daily, Mint, which had carried a story on the Tatas blacklisting The Pioneer, Outlook*, Open, India Today group and The Times of India group for their “biased reporting” of the 2G spectrum allocation scam:

“Is it not substandard, even mischievous, journalism when tapped conversations, whose authenticity has not been established, are reproduced without any attempt to follow the standard journalistic norm of getting the other person’s point of view?

“Is it not substandard, even mischievous, journalism when large dollops of juicy conversations unconnected with telecom are touted as being akin to proof of involvement with the “2G scam”, and Ratan Tata’s picture, as also of others similarly unconnected, is put on a magazine cover?

“Is it not biased journalism when patently incorrect and damningly one-sided reports are carried on a television channel and a magazine belonging to one media entity, not once but repeatedly, without any attempt to seek our point of view?

“Is it not biased journalism when the detailed rebuttals sent by us are not even acknowledged, let alone printed, by the same media entity? In all of this, it is intriguing that your editorial does not mention that one media house which has been the most biased of all.

“The Indian media is, fortunately, much larger than the handful of its members who have been prejudiced and unprofessional with their recent coverage of the Tata group.”

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy HyBiz

Read the full letter: Christabelle Noronha

Also read: Have the Tatas blacklisted The Times of India again?

External reading: Ratan Tata interviewed by Christabelle Noronha

Christabelle Noronha in The Hindu on the making of Tata Nano

Have Tatas blacklisted The Times of India again?

16 January 2011

Tata Steel, the flagship company of corporate behemoth Tata Sons, is going in for a follow-on public offer (FPO).

This display advertisement appeared in the Delhi editions of the Hindustan Times and Mint, Indian Express and Financial Express, The Hindu and Business Standard, on Friday, 14 January 2011, but not in the Delhi editions of India’s largest English newspaper The Times of India, or India’s largest business newspaper, The Economic Times.

The Friday ad was also published by the Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle, the Calcutta-based The Telegraph and the Bombay-based Mid-Day but Times group publications in those cities were conspicuous by their absence.

ToI and ET also didn’t get the issue ads that are rquired to be mandatorily published ahead of an IPO or FPO.

The Delhi-based Pioneer and the Mail Today newspaper of the India Today group too didn’t figure in Tata Steel’s FPO media plans. The Pioneer led the field in the exposure of the 2G spectrum allocation scam and Mail Today was alone among the newspapers in covering the Niira Radia tapes which showed the Tata group in poor light.

The tapes also showed that Radia was in conversation with almost everybody in the ET hierarchy.

Last week, Mint, the business paper owned by the Hindustan Times group, had outed an internal Tata Group communique, dated December 24, that had specifically instructed Tata group companies to “avoid participating” in news stories in Pioneer, ToI, India Today, Outlook* and Open magazines, which exposed the tapes.

The Mint story quoted Christabelle Noronha, chief (group corporate affairs) at Tata Sons, that there had been an instruction to group companies to not participate in news stories being done by the “offending publications and channels”.

It also quoted BCCL (Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd) chief marketing officer Rahul Kansal, who said: “In our (company’s) context, internally there have been rumours about the Tata group banning us. But it would be unfair to say I know for sure.”

But it appears the Tata blacklist goes beyond news stories and well into advertising.

Or does it?

The Tatas had blacklisted the “response-driven” Times group from advertising in the early 2000s, offended by its coverage of the Tata Finance controversy. The Tatas returned to India’s largest newspaper group at the time of the Tata Communciation Consultancy Services (TCS) initial public offering (IPO).

In the wake of the Niira Radia controversy, Tatasons chairman Ratan Tata had voiced fears of India becoming a “banana republic” in an interview with Shekhar Gupta, the editor-in-chief of The Indian Express and The Financial Express for his NDTV program, Walk the Talk.

* Disclosures apply

Why Ratan Tata hired Niira Radia’s services

9 December 2010

In his open letter three days ago to Ratan Tata, the Rajya Sabha member with media interests, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, asked why a corporate house like the Tatas, “with its sterling character and reputation requires outside lobbyists to lobby on their behalf.”

In his open letter to Chandrasekhar, Tata provides the answer on the woman whose conversations with the bold-faced bylines have sent Indian journalism into a tizzy:

“Ten years ago, Tatas found themselves under attack in a media campaign to defame the ethics and value systems of the group which held it apart from others in India.

“The campaign was instituted and sustained through an unholy nexus between certain corporates and the media through selected journalists.

“As Tatas did not enjoy any such ‘captive connections’ in this environment, the Tata Group, had no option but to seek an external agency focused at projecting its point of view in the media and countering the misinformation and vested interest viewpoints which were being expressed.

Vaishnavi was commissioned for this purpose and has operated effectively since 2001. You yourself have interacted with Niira Radia on some occasions in the past and it is therefore amazing that you should now, after nearly nine years, seek to denounce Tatas’ appointment of Vaishnavi…. Vaishnavi is neither owned by the Tata Group nor is the Tata Group Vaishnavi’s only client.”

Read the full letter: From Ratan Tata. To Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Is it really so difficult to say sorry, maaf karo?

3 December 2010

Nearly 30 years after it was made on a shorter than shoestring budget, the Kundan Shah-directed caper Jaane bhi do yaaro remains one of Bollywood’s most loved movies, presciently squatting at the 2010 intersection of politicians, businessmen and journalists a la Niira Radiagate.

In JBDY, two commercial photographers (played by Naseeruddin Shah and the late Ravi Baswani) pick up freelance assignments for Khabardar, a muckraking publication edited by Shobha Sen (Bhakti Barve) that ostensibly wants to expose the link between an unscrupulous builder (Pankaj Kapoor) and a corrupt municipal commissioner (Satish Shah).

The lensmen come up with damning evidence but, well, the editor is “stringing along” with another builder (Om Puri) and strumming a different tune.

Now, what if the remorseless Bhakti Barve played Barkha Dutt, the “massively influential but ethically embattled” NDTV anchor?

***

B.V. Rao in Governance Now:

“Barkha’s show of her lifetime left me unimpressed because it did not answer some key questions. Where is her apology to her viewers (she did not look into the camera, address her viewers and say “sorry” even when prompted).”

T.N. Ninan in Business Standard:

“If both (Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi) could bring themselves to admitting that they crossed a line, apologise and declare that it won’t happen again, the entire journalist community would breathe easier and hold its head up a little higher. So would a generation of young journalism students and new entrants into the profession, who have grown up idealising Ms Dutt and others.”

Shobha Narayan in Mint:

“Should Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi say “mea culpa” for letting down their readers and viewers? Absolutely. Then, why don’t they?”

***

YouTube Link via Madikeri Sipayi

Read the book: Jai Arjun Singh

How to get tomorrow’s news today: an example

29 November 2010

The Indian Express, Ramnath Goenka‘s bludgeon that once drove fear through the hearts of the high and mighty, the corrupt and the crooked, has emerged as a key player in drumming up the defence for Ratan Tata, the chairman of Tata Sons, whose conversations with the group’s chief lobbyist Niira Radia, revealed by Outlook* and Open magazines, have put the Tatas’ clean image under a question mark.

The paper’s editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta did a deferential “Walk the Talk” show with Tata sitting in a hotel room in Bombay, an episode that was played endlessly on NDTV 24×7 and NDTV Profit on Sunday, besides giving the interview a two-page spread in the Express (to be continued tomorrow).

On its website, the paper reports that the battered Ratan Tata has moved the Supreme Court against the leak and unauthorised publication of tapes of his conversation, citing right to privacy.

The time the Express report was posted online: 3.20 am.

The time the Supreme Court of India opens: 10.30 am.

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Has Ratan Tata ruined the Tatas’ brand image?

External reading: The Niira Radia tapes and transcripts

Lessons for Vir & Barkha from Prem & Nikhilda

28 November 2010

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Journalism started going astray with the birth of financial dailies in the 1960s. With full-fledged newspapers devoted exclusively to business, corporate houses became hyperactive. The next thing we knew was press conferences ending with gifts of expensive sarees and suitlengths to reporters.

That was innocent child play compared to what has hit the headlines now: charges of celebrity journalists working hand in hand with a professional lobbyist to fix things like cabinet appointments and big-ticket business deals.

Excerpts from taped conversations between the star journalists and corporate lobbyist Niira Radia have been published. Radia was promoting the prospects of some DMK personalities as well as the gas interests of one Ambani brother and the spectrum interests of the Tatas.

The journalists became her tools.

Lobbying is a recognised activity in democracies. But it is a tricky line of work because sometimes unconventional methods might become necessary to secure the case of a client. Given Niira Radia’s experience and efficiency, acknowledged by companies like Tatas, we must assume that she took care not to cross the line. Anyway we can leave it to the enforcement directorate which is looking into the matter.

Journalism is as different from lobbying as nariel paani is from singlemalt. Any crossing of the line may be a tribute to the power of singlemalt, but never justifiable.

Unfortunately the journalists show themselves as amenable to doing the unjustifiable. They agree to convey messages favouring A.Raja to the Congress bosses. They agree to take the side of the Ambani brother Radia was promoting as against the other brother.

The moment the tapes were published, the journalists mentioned in it rushed to rebut all insinuations. The arguments were that journalists had to talk to all sorts of people, that “stringing” along with a source was no crime, that promises had to be made sometimes to get information from a source. The employer of one journalist said that it was preposterous to “caricature the professional sourcing of information to ‘lobbying’”.

The question is whether the journalists carry credibility. Of course drunks and murderers have been among the valued contacts of journalists. And of course journalists have moved very closely with political leaders.

Few people were closer to Jawaharlal Nehru than B. Shiva Rao of The Hindu. Prem Bhatia of The Statesman used to walk the corridors of Delhi as if he owned them. The hardest nuts in the power circle cracked happily before Nikhil Chakravartty on his morning rounds.

Not once did these men ask for a favour or recommend a businessman friend. They were not social celebrities, but they did their profession proud by keeping the highest possible credibility level.

Today’s celebrities assume they can win credibility by simply saying that they talked to Radia only as a source and that they never kept promises made to her anyway. Is a veteran networker like Radia so easily fooled? Obviously she is close to her journalist contacts and must have had promises from them before. She wouldn’t waste her time if she knew that they were promises not meant to be followed up.

At one point she actually tells another contact that “I made [the journalist] call up Congress and get a statement”. This is Radia speaking, not a naïve greenhorn. To say that this kind of work on behalf of a lobbyist is legitimate journalism is like B.S. Yediyurappa saying that all he has ever done is development work.

To say that they promised to talk to the likes of Sonia and Rahul only to outsmart a war-horse is like the BJP high command saying it has outsmarted Yeddyurappa.

The glamour of celebrityhood has a way of going to one’s head. Delusions of grandeur are never a journalistic virtue. The real virtue is the mind’s ability to maintain a degree of detachment. When the game is played at the 5-star level, one can never be sure of who is fooling whom.

It will be good for everyone to remember that there is one lot that can never be fooled: The people.

External reading: The Niira Radia tapes and transcripts

Which paper or TV station will do this story first?

24 March 2009

After the hype of the launch of the Tata Nano yesterday, the reality check today.

***

SHOBHA SARADA VISWANATHAN, in New Delhi, forwards a copy of an advertisement (above) taken out by Greenpeace in the Financial Times, London, and the International Herald Tribune, Paris, to draw the attention of the chairman of Ratan Tata, to the damage being caused to endangered Olive Ridley turtles by the Tatas’ construction of a port in Dhamra in Orissa’s Bhadrak district, in a joint venture with Larsen & Toubro.

Do Indian newspapers, which have all run full-page ads of the launch of the Nano today, have it in them to carry the Greenpeace advertisement? Will Indian TV channels run the YouTube film (below) that Greenpeace has put out? Will there be followups in newspapers, magazines and TV stations?

Or, in the wake of the Nano, is it a no-no because, well, the Tatas might sue or pull out the ads?

***

Below is the full text of the FT-IHT advertisement:

Dear Mr Ratan Tata

The Nano is the realisation of a dream you have dreamed along with millions of other Indians. While the Nano is certainly something you’d like to be remembered for, your port in Dhamra could undo all that the Tatas have stood for and built their reputation on.

For two years in a row, ever since dredging began in Dhamra, there has been no mass-nesting of endangered Olive Ridley turtles in the area. If they disappear, it will be forever. And that’s why Greenpeace believes that the port must stop now.

98% of your own customers polled recently also think the port should stop now. Over 100,000 customers have already emailed, called and faxed you, asking that the port should stop now. And over 200 respected scientists—25 of them from IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group—say the port must stop now. But construction continues day and night, threatening to bring an already endangered species closer to extinction.

Mr Tata, we call upon you to uphold the legacy that your company has built painstakingly over 100 years. Place the planet at par with profits, because there are some things that money just can’t buy back.

Greenpeace

www.greenpeace.org/turtles

***

Also read: Tatas refuse to stop dredging

Join the Facebook group: Greenpeace India

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