Posts Tagged ‘RIL’

RIL, Network18 & the loss of media heterogeneity

12 June 2014

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Even as the takeover of Network18 by India’s biggest corporate house, Reliance Industries Limited, receives scant scrutiny in the mainstream media on what it portends in the long term, the journalist and educator Paranjoy Guha Thakurta weighs in, in the Economic & Political Weekly:

“The consequence of RIL strengthening its association with Network18 is a clear loss of heterogeneity in the dissemination of information and opinions. Media plurality in a multicultural country like India will diminish.

“In particular, the space for providing factual information as well as expressing views that are not in favour of (or even against the interests of) India’s biggest corporate conglomerate will shrink, not just in the traditional mainstream media (print, television and radio) but in the new media (internet and mobile telephony).

“There is growing concentration of ownership in the country’s already-oligopolistic media markets. In the absence of restrictions on cross-media ownership, these trends will inexorably lead to the continuing privatisation and “commodification” of information instead of making it more of a “public good” that could benefit larger sections of society, in particular the underprivileged.”

For the record, RIL sent Thakurta a legal notice for his book Gas Wars: crony Capitalism and the Ambanis.

Read the full article: What future for the media in India?

File photograph: RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani holds a jar containing the first crude oil produced from the KG-D6 block in 2009 (Punit Paranjpe/Reuters)

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Also read: Has media blacked out RIL takeover of Network 18?

‘Media freedom bleaker with Ambani domination’

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

Rajya Sabha TV tears into Reliance-TV18 deal

EPW on the Reliance-ETV-RIL deal within a deal

WaPo, Amazon, HT and the Reliance-TV18 deal

‘Has media blacked out RIL takeover of TV18?’

6 June 2014

As India’s biggest business house Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) goes through the motions of formally taking complete control of one of India’s biggest TV networks, Network 18, the veteran journalist and commentator Kuldip Nayar writes in Deccan Herald:

“I was not surprised when television channels did not cover the taking over of a large TV news network by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited.

“Most channels — roughly around 300 — are owned by property dealers who can afford to spend Rs 1 crore, an average monthly expenditure, through money laundering. Every one of them wants to be the Reliance one day.

“What has taken me aback is that the press has reported the deal but has preferred to keep quiet.

“Even though journalism has ceased to be a profession and has become an industry, I was expecting some reactions, at least from the Editors’ Guild of India. But then it is understandable when it has rejected my proposal that editors should also declare their assets public, the demand which they voice for politicians.

“Double standards make a mockery of the high pedestal on which the media sit.”

Read the full column: Where’s free media?

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Also read: Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win CCI approval?

Reliance has no ‘direct’ stake in media companies

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

Signature campaign against CSDS poll tracker

1 April 2014

As the Chinese might say, the Indian media is living in strange times even before the advent of Narendra Modi.

The Aam Aadmi Party accuses TV stations of being bought over by Modi. Sting operations reveal that opinion pollsters are willing to up their estimates of Modi for a price.

News channels show unedited feeds from Modi’s own cameras as if they were their own. Editorial changes are being made in newspapers and magazines with a change in government in prospect.

Etcetera.

Now, even the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) with its formidable reputation as a credible pollster for CNN-IBN, is facing the music.

Yogendra Yadav, for long CSDS’s face on TV during election time, is now a member of AAP, standing from Gurgaon; Madhu Kishwar is a prominent BJP votary, whose interviews with Modi are now being aired on India News and NewsX.

As CNN-IBN (now owned by Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries) airs its “Election Tracker“*, a signature campaign has been launched which scurrilously alleges that the CSDS survey is “a campaign for BJP, not research work”.

Launched by “Manjeet Singh” who claims to be from Patna, the petition on change.org headlined “CSDS poll survey for CNN-IBN will take BJP close to 272 in next 3 days. Is this Research?”, reads (uncorrected):

“It’s not news anymore that the Sanjay Kumar‘s contractors who has funding coming in to their media houses from the big corporates are forcing  Sanjay Kumar reach a figure of close to 272 in the survey.

“CSDS’s credibility is being used for this agenda. Seems that the sting operation on the survey agencies was done to enhance the credibility of CSDS’s survey just before Sanjay Kumar’s closer to 272 projections for the BJP was to appear on Television.”

For the record, CSDS’s surveys for CNN-IBN have seen the BJP numbers go up from 156-164 in July 2013 to 171-179 in November, and 192-210 in January 2014.

* The CNN-IBN election tracker is in association with Week magazine. Disclosures apply.
Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

 How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

On TV, Congress loses to BJP, Left to AAP

Is “Modi Media” paving the way for soft Fascism?

Network 18′s right-wing swing on Caravan cover

30 November 2013

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The December issue of Caravan magazine has a 16-page cover story on how the Raghav Bahl founded Network 18 has taken a turn towards right-wing politics after its takeover by Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries.

Headlined ‘The Network Effect’ and written by Rahul Bhatia, who authored the Arnab Goswami profile last year, the article chronicles a number of instances to underline the group’s rightward lurch.

# First Post editor-in-chief R. Jagannathan began attending Forbes India meetings in February 2013 as part of a planned integration.

“Glancing at a sheet of paper he had arrived with, Jagannathan yelled: ‘You’re doing it wrong. Forbes is about the wealthy. It’s about right-wing politics. You guys are writing about development and poverty. If you guys don’t get it, I’m going to make sure that you do.”

***

# “Last year, CNBC TV18′s Vivian Fernandes, who co-wrote Raghav Bahl’s book, was despatched to interview Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. A person involved with the production of the interview recalled that Fernandes asked a difficult question about water conservation in Gujarat.

“Modi’s organisers had asked to see the questions before the interview, and demanded the water conservation question’s removal.

“When Fernandes sprung it on him anyway, Modi broke away from the camera and glared at a public relations executive in the room.

“‘Why is he talking like this?’ the person recalled Modi saying. ‘Are we not paying for this interview?’” The production crew realised that the interview was part of a promotion for Modi.”

***

# “In the weeks leading up to the group’s first Think India conference in April, Raghav Bahl told his management that he wanted to start a foundation called Think Right.

“CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai and deputy editor Sagarika Ghose, objected to the name, believing that it was certain to be misinterpreted. ‘they believed that ‘right’ would come to mean Hindutva, you know?’ a person involved in the discussions said.

***

# “‘There was a concerted effort to drive a large visible campaign to prop up Narendra Modi in the run-up to the Think India platform,’ former Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta said.

Each channel, publication and website had to carry promotional material of some kind. ‘They wanted a Modi cover story from Forbes India.’”

***

# At the group’s senior management getaway in Macau in early 2013, “the editors’ mood sank further when Raghav Bahl let the large gathering know he favoured Narendra Modi as India’s next prime minister.

“Until last year, Rajdeep was the most important person here. Now after Mr Ambani, Modi is the most important person.’”

“I spoke to the editor again in the middle of November. ‘It’s serious. They have started putting indirect pressure on editors to not criticise Narendra Modi,’ the editor said. ‘I think Think India was created to promote him.’”

***

# “Early on November 9, Rajdeep Sardesai travelled to Nagpur to meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Two senior editors in touch with Sardesai independently confirmed that Raghav Bahl had pressed him to meet Bhagwat and other RSS leaders.

“‘Raghav is keen on promoting right-of-centre policies. He believes Indians have enterprise in our blood,’ the person involved in the decision over the Think India foundation’s naming said.”

***

# “Network 18 is not alone in its rightward swing, but as Modi’s value in the attention econmy continues to rise, no one in English-language broadcasting has traded more on his appeal than CNN-IBN.

“For four days in October and November 2013, the Centre for Media Studies, an independent thinktank in Delhi, monitored the primetime political coverage of some major English news channels.

“Of the five they surveyed, CNN-IBN covered Modi for over 72 minutes, a greater duration than anyone else. At the same time, it covered Rahul Gandhi for approximately 18 minutes.”

Also read: ‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective TRP

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

WaPo, Amazon, HT, and the Reliance-TV18 deal

6 August 2013

There was plenty of buzz about the Washington Post building being sold to shore up the books. But when the paper’s staff was convened for a meeting on the afternoon of August 5, they were in for a shock: the family-owned newspaper itself was being sold.

The sale, to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, has made global headlines, not least because of the paper’s iconic place in modern journalism, thanks to its Watergate investigation.

Not least because a digital titan was the “white knight” riding in to save a dead-tree medium.

The low value of the sale has also set alarm bells ringing of the mortality of the print medium, as indeed has the ease with which the Katherine Graham family has parted with a one-town, one-industry paper they had so affectionately, so assiduously nurtured into a global brand.

Here, Anant Goenka, the scion of the family-owned Indian Express group, analyses the sale and its aftermath in the Indian context.

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anantgoenka

by ANANT GOENKA

“Comparing WaPo’s price to Tumblr & Instagram is stupid. Guess what? Great journalism is a worse business than social networking! Who cares?” A tweet from the Atlantic’s Andrew Golis.

Here’s why he’s wrong.

The Washington Post brand—a role model for journalism around the democratic world, and an aspiration in countries that don’t enjoy free press like Singapore and China—once considered priceless, now has a value.

Even the Hindustan Times, a thinly traded stock, has a value of Rs. 2,250 crore today that is based only on their profit and loss, and doesn’t factor in real estate or the brand.

WashPo’s value at Rs. 61 to the US dollar is Rs 1,550 crore.

This is relevant as it marks a shift in the way news media companies are valued.

Newscorp, Disney and New York Times didn’t value Wall Street Journal, ABC (and ESPN) or the International Herald Tribune like PE funds at 25 times profit after tax.

They believed they were bidding for the brand.

Twenty years ago, when the New York Times bought over Boston Globe, they valued it based on current revenues, expected future revenues from joint ad selling, cost efficiencies from scale, and, importantly, value of the Globe’s brand: possibly calculated by assigning a certain dollar value to each paid subscriber.

World over, news companies weren’t just valued by their business success, but for intangibles such as ability to influence public perception, discussion and political agenda, and the brand recall as well. And for good reason.

It’s no small feat for a brand to be recognized by every household in America.

McDonalds, Ford, Elvis Presley during his time, these are brands every American has heard of. Washington Post, New York Times, ABC, CBS, and other media companies, with a fraction of the turnover of McDonalds or Ford, are names known to every American.

How do you assign a value to that?

Similarly, Red Sox owner’s purchase of the Boston Globe at a value of 70 million dollars three days ago puts a pretty low value to a brand that is known to every citizen in Massachusetts.

Aside from the fact that the sale shows that proprietors are willing to exit without assigning any major value to the brand, it also shows that proprietors have given up, maybe without trying enough, finding ways to monetize a brand either by innovative brand extensions or franchise operations beyond the core product.

You can’t blame them. Experiments world over have shown that audiences are sticky to the first medium and don’t transfer across.

The most commercially successful radio channels, TV stations and magazines were started by a team of people dedicated to their platform and didn’t have much to do with the core business.

Take Time Out for instance, present in every major city, owned by very autonomous franchises. There isn’t any city where the destination city happenings/blog site is TimeOut.com.

Not Bangalore, London, Mumbai, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Prague or St. Petersburg.

It’s too soon to tell if the sale of Washington Post is good for journalism or not.

It’ll depend on the maturity and seriousness with which the new owner decides to run the paper with.

The trend of billionaires owning newspapers will only benefit journalism if they are as ruthless with the bottom lines of their news companies as they would be of any other company they have a stake in.

Because for any industry to flourish, bad business models and poorly run companies in the industry must perish quickly.

Companies that do journalism the world over will benefit only when Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos and other billionaire owners use their wealth of knowledge, experience in their areas of specialization and deep pockets to experiment with the goal of creating a business model that sustains itself.

This is why I believe Network 18’s sale to Reliance was a disservice to the news industry in India – it allowed a business that was far too expensively run to survive longer.

And the sale, now in its second year, will only help the industry when, with Reliance’s business acumen, the Network 18 group can find a way to be profitable (inclusive of interest cost).

Sure, it’s legitimate strategy to bleed the competition if you can sustain your loss, but to have a sugar daddy reinforcing poor business will soon lead India to an environment with only vested interest business media owners.

Incidentally, the Indian Express and its owners have no other business interests. The Hindu and Ananda Bazaar Patrika are other such companies.

In the fields of education, healthcare and news media, being purely “for-profit” has always seemed to be a little bit of a conflict of interest. But it is at times like these that we remind ourselves that a self-sustaining business model is the most important trait of a company that wants to be consistent in its impact on society

Also read: RIL has no direct stake in media companies

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

How the ‘Forbes India’ editors were forced out

6 June 2013
IG_DK_Charles_Shishir

Top row: Indrajit Gupta (L), Dinesh Krishnan
Bottom row: Shishir Prasad (L), Charles Assisi

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The abrupt exit last week of the top four editorial heads of the business magazine Forbes India, including of its editor Indrajit Gupta, has swung the spotlight once again on the questionable—but rarely ever questioned—human resources (HR) policies and practices in Indian media houses.

In this case, one of India’s biggest: Network 18.

On the face of it, the “termination” of services of Indrajit Gupta, and the “resignation” of managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan, and executive editor Shishir Prasad, might seem like a small matter—even an “internal” issue—in a company whose 2012 assets were valued at Rs 2,400 crore.

In fact, Network 18′s chief operating officer Ajay Chacko sought to paint the exits as a routine matter; almost a natural consequence of the ongoing “restructuring” in the company after First Post editor R. Jagannathan‘s leadership role was expanded in March to also overlook the print publications in the stable such as Forbes India.

“There were always going to be some redundancies after ‘Jaggi’ took over [as editor-in-chief],” Chacko told Media Nama, after reports of the sudden exits emerged, suggesting that in a converged newsroom, the presence of the four was not required.

However, a closer examination of L’affaire Forbes India, based on multiple off-the-record conversations, reveals the brazen manner in which giant Indian media companies, whose promoters flatulently pontificate on how India must be run, conduct themselves and play around with the lives of their employees and their families.

More importantly, the exits throw not-so-kind light on the pulls and pressures Indian newsrooms are facing due to growing financial pressures; how global brands which franchise their titles are dealt with by their Indian partners; and how the high-stakes game of “valuations” is getting shaped in the digital age.

Above all, that all this should have happened in a business magazine belonging to a company with two business TV channels (CNBC-TV18 and CNBC Awaaz), which is part-owned by India’s most powerful business house, Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries Limited, provides no small irony.

And that there is so much silence all around from the media fraternity tells its own story.

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forbes-india

The launch issue of Forbes India, 2009

Insiders at Forbes India, which was launched within four days of the UPA return to power in 2009, say there was little indication of the impending exits of M/s Gupta & Co till as recently as even a fortnight ago.

When the magazine came out with a special double issue to mark its fourth anniversary recently, SMSes and e-mails congratulating each other were being happily exchanged between the editorial and business sides.

But plenty was afoot in the boardroom of Network 18′s Matunga office in central Bombay, where Forbes India staff were now sharing the floor with their First Post colleagues, in the first baby steps towards “integration”—the creation of a combined newsroom where the website’s and magazine’s staffers would happily cohabit under editor-in-chief R. Jagannathan, “Jaggi” as he is known to friends and colleagues.

Indrajit Gupta, Charles Assisi, Dinesh Krishnan and Shishir Prasad, all key founding-members of Forbes India’s launch team, were involved in conversations with the HR side of the company, reminding them on the Employee Stock Options (ESOPs) which they had apparently been promised five years ago when they were being induced to come on board.

The quantum of the combined ESOPs is not known.

Forbes India insiders say it is about Rs 2 crore in all, split between the four; others at Network 18 say it could be a little higher but not exceeding Rs 5 crore. However, unlike in listed companies, Network 18 underwrote the value of the ESOPs. Meaning: it assured the four Forbes India staffers that it would pay the promised money at the end of four years.

Network 18 sources say about a month and a half back, the four Forbes India staffers began the process of cashing out their ESOPs, first informally, then officially.

On Friday, May 24, when they met formally with the company’s HR, they were told to forego their old ESOP scheme and presented with a new ESOP scheme.

They were given a 48-hour deadline to sign up.

However, on Monday, May 27, the HR head Shampa Kochhar, in the presence of Jagannathan, is said to have served editor Indrajit Gupta a fait accompli: resign on the spot by signing a letter that absolved the company of all claims on the five-year-old ESOPs and take a severance cheque. Or have your services terminated.

Indrajit Gupta is believed to have opted for the latter course.

The experience of the other three was no different.

They, too, were told to relinquish the old ESOP plan and presented with a new ESOP plan. And they, too, were told that they must resign on the spot or face termination with no benefits.

Unlike Gupta, Assisi, Krishnan and Prasad resigned.

(A fifth ESOP recipient, online director Deepak Ajwani, however acquiesced.)

***

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When news of the exits trickled out on Thursday, May 30, it was clear that the dirty tricks department was already at work.

Forbes editors were negotiating with a PE (private equity) fund to take over the magazine once Network 18′s franchise with Forbes expires next year. Network 18 found out and asked these editors to quit,” read one SMS this reporter has seen.

In truth, though, Network 18′s end-goal of integrating the Forbes India newsroom with the First Post newsroom seems to have been the trigger which sparked the implosion—and the ESOP scheme seems to have come in handy to force the exits.

The less charitable view within Network 18 is that the “old school” Gang of Four sought to cash out their ESOPs because of their reservations over the “integration” plan and that they were always hoping to go out this way and end up as martyrs in the eyes of the world.

# From the Forbes India perspective, integration meant its reporters reacting to breaking business news and writing for First Post, perhaps vice-versa too. It also meant getting used to having an editor-in-chief (Jagannathan) besides the editor (Indrajit Gupta).

# From the First Post perspective, integration meant the domain expertise of an established brand like Forbes India in business stories. It meant access to sources and subjects. It also meant credibility.

# From Network 18 group’s perspective, it meant a larger workforce to feed the “bottomless monster” that is the worldwide web, at no extra cost.

Initially it looked like a win-win, and the indication was that Jagannathan and Gupta were on the same page.

The two had worked together at Business Standard and at a review meeting in April, the former is reported to have said that he would make way for the Forbes India team to run the show after a few months.

Network 18 sources say initially Gupta & Co were not seen as a “hindrance” to the integration, although at least two of the four were allegedly told in their “exit” meetings with HR that they were seen as such and that they would be “redundant” in the converged newsroom.

Since a couple of crores could not have been the problem for either Network 18 or RIL, the key problem area could perhaps have been “mindset”.

The orbits of the two organisations—and their means, methods, motives and motivations—are signficantly different.

Like its US parent, Forbes India occupies the leisurely and rarefied world of a fortnightly. Stories are deeply, immersively researched. Stories are slow-cooked from a week up to a month or more, before being written and re-written and re-re-written by editors.

On the other hand, First Post is all speed and on-the-spur. Provocation is its middle name. And, despite coming from a massive group backed by a giant business house, much of its output is cheaply spun and rehashed by arm-chair pundits with an “angle” and “attitude”.

More importantly, the political impulses of the two organisations were diametrically different.

Although Forbes prides itself as the “capitalist tool” in America, Forbes India had a slight liberal streak. First Post, on the other hand, like Network 18 founder Raghav Bahl, unabashedly tilts to the right. (Bahl recently said in the presence of Narendra Modi that India’s predominant political impulse was “right”.)

In the end, a low-cost solution seems to have been found to a potentially head-on editorial—and ideological—collision between the online and offline organisations, but at what cost?

Regardless of what prompted the exits, will Forbes, which licensed its title to Bahl’s Network 18 for six years, be told why the top four names on the masthead will be suddenly missing from the next issue?

Will its readers be told?

***

At the end of the day, though, the issue is one of signals.

By securing the exit of senior editors in this fashion, by showing how dispensable even an Editor is, the signal has gone down the line, to fall in line. Or else.

And by making ESOPs such an elastic matter, other ESOP holders in different companies of Network 18 have been sent the signal that they too can take nothing for granted.

But…

# What signal does the viewer receive at 9 am every week day, when Udayan Mukherjee and Mitali Mukherjee start grandly quizzing TCS, Infosys or Wipro managers on ESOPs?

# What signal do editors across the country receive when the Press Council, Editors’ Guild and other bodies remain silent when media corporations treat employees and their lives with such abandon?

# What signal do media houses send of their concern for a free, fair and responsible press if HR staff behave in an irresponsible manner and attack professional, independent minded journalists?

# What signal does a global brand like Forbes, or other foreign media houses, receive of the seriousness of their Indian partners to play by the book and observe the rules?

# And finally what signal does Mukesh Ambani’s RIL, which is now in the media in a big way, send of the seriousness of corporates to preserve the core values of the media?

Also read: What Raghav Bahl could learn from Samir Jain

‘Network 18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

13 April 2013

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As news channels bend backwards to give flight to Narendra Modi‘s prime ministerial ambitions, the Indian Express television critic, Pratik Kanjilal, writes on the Mukesh Ambani-controlled Network 18‘s unquestioning schmoozefest with the Gujarat chief minister:

“Modi also addressed a business forum in Kolkata, but the big one was the multimedia love-feast organised by Network 18.

“TV, blow by blow Web updates, social media, the works, with Modi hosted by Sanjay Pugalia, one of the first television journalists, and the discussion led by media entrepreneur Raghav Bahl.

“With no trace of journalistic scepticism, this was a promo. The guest was so much at ease that he asked after Sagarika Ghose and Rajdeep Sardesai. It’s sobering to recall that Sardesai had done excellent street-to-street reporting on the Gujarat violence of 2002.”

Read the full column: Twitter alert

Also read: ‘For cash-stuck TV, Modi fetches TRPs’

HT wedding unites Ambanis and Birlas

31 December 2012

News of a wedding that brings India’s most powerful corporate, Reliance Industries, closer to India’s second largest English newspaper, Hindustan Times, which is headed by the Congress member of Parliament Shobhana Bhartia.

From Mail Today, the tabloid newspaper from the India Today group:

Mukesh Ambani‘s home Antilia has seen a number of parties in the last few months like the one thrown to celebrate Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 100 international centuries.

The next one promises to be the mother of all bashes.

Mukesh and Anil Ambani‘s sister, Nina Kothari‘s daughter Nayantara will be tying the knot with K.K. Birla‘s grandson Shamit Bhartia.

Shamit is the son of Hindustan Times boss Shobhana Bhartia and her businessman-husband Shyam Bhartia of Jubilant.

While the wedding is in Chennai, Mukesh and his wife Nita are throwing a lavish dinner at Antilia on January 5. This will be the first wedding of the late Dhirubhai Ambani‘s grandchildren. Secondly, all of Dhirubhai and Kokilaben’s children would be seen together after a long time.

For the record, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries (RIL) owns a large chunk of TV18 group, which has control over the ETV network of channels, through a controversial deal that later won the approval of the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

“Reliance has no ‘direct’ stake in media cos”

16 May 2012

A screengrab of the official press information bureau (PIB) release on 14 May 2012, on the shareholding of Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries in media companies.

Interesting, if true.

Also read: Mint says SEBI looking into RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal

Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

EPW on the RIL-ETV-TV18 deal-within-a-deal

13 February 2012

In the latest issue of the Economic & Political Weekly, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Subi Chaturvedi weigh in on the nearly forgotten RIL-ETV-TV18 deal, which gives India’s biggest business house control over India’s biggest business news channel, a clutch of news channels, online properties and magazines:

“If international best practices are to be followed, cross-media restrictions should be put in place to prevent large groups from owning stakes across several media, such as print, newspapers, television, radio and the internet. In the US, restrictions place a limit on the market-share available to one entity and that prevents newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership in the same market.

“In France and Canada, a “two out of three” law prevails, whereby companies can only own two of three of the following: terrestrial television services, radio services and daily newspapers. In the UK, the ownership of both newspapers and radio stations, and of both television channels and newspapers in the same area, is prohibited….

“The uniqueness of India’s “mediascape” suggests that while restrictions may be desirable, the safeguards deemed appropriate may not precisely be those that apply in other countries. The TRAI has suggested that a detailed market analysis be conducted by the I&B Ministry in order to ascertain which safeguards would be most appropriate in the Indian context.

“Restrictions on cross-media ownership and control will certainly be resisted staunchly by the big conglomerates in India which own properties across media types and segments. These groups would be vociferous in their criticism of any step to move towards regulation of corporate “groups” or “conglomerates” as opposed to specific “entities” – they would resist such moves tooth and nail.

“Any attempt to impose cross-media restrictions on ownership and control would be dubbed as ‘heavy-handed government censorship’, ‘a return to the bad days of the Emergency’, and a ‘reversion to the infamous licence control raj. The government will invarialy be accused of trying to constrain the media because the media is critical of those in positions of power and authority.

“The argument that since cross-media restrictions exist in advanced capitalist countries with developed media markets, such restrictions should also exist in India, will be countered by claims that since India is a developing country, any restrictions on ownership and control would stifle the media’s growth potential.”

Read the full article: Corporatisation of the media

Also read: Mint says SEBI looking into RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal

Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

ET joins Mint, has questions on RIL-ETV-TV18 deal

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