Posts Tagged ‘The Times of India Group’

ToI group in squabble over Kannada paper title

30 March 2012

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: A first-generation newspaper promoter launches a newspaper with his first name as part of the title. After a few years, he sells the now well-established newspaper to a well-established newspaper group. The new owners (neither of whom share the original promoter’s surname) continue to publish the newspaper in its original name.

Now, if the original promoter buys up the title of another existing newspaper, which coincidentally also has his first name as part of its title, and decides to compete with his first newspaper in the same markets, is he banking on the saleability of his name—or indulging in trademark infringement?

Confused?

Well, that’s the sum and substance of a controversy that has broken out in Bangalore between The Times of India group of Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, and VRL Media owned by the truck operator Vijay Sankeshwar.

Thirteen years ago, Sankeshwar lauched the multi-edition Vijaya Karnataka, which soon became market leader. In 2006, he sold the daily and associated properties to The Times of India group. After the lapse of the five-year no-compete clause, Sankeshwar announced plans to launch a new daily.

He zeroed in on the title Vijaya Vani for his new project.

But The Times group is not amused. In fact, it has apparently issued a legal notice to VRL Media and the matter has landed in the courts in Bangalore. The Times group’s legal notice comes on the eve of Vijaya Vani‘s promise launch on Sunday, April 1.

Vishweshwar Bhat, the former editor of Vijaya Karnataka who now edits Kannada Prabha, points out on his blog:

“If the use of a name like “Vijay” is the cause of the strife, surely Samyukta Karnataka could have objected whenVijaya Karnataka was launched because the word Karnataka was in it? And surely, Praja Vani and Udaya Vani too could take objection to the title Vijaya Vani because the word Vani is in it?”

That’s problem no.1 in The Times argument. Problem no.2 is Vijaya Vani is a title that had been peacefully coming out for a small town called Tumkur, on the outskirts of Bangalore, till Vijaya Sankeshwar purchased it. So, if ToI had no problem with that title for six years, why does it have one now?

Problem no. 3: those who have seen dummy editions of the new (relaunched?) Vijaya Vani  say it will have a picture of the owner, Vijay Sankeshwar, alongside the masthead for a few months. Can either the courts or the registrar of newspapers deny a owner to name a paper after himself with a photo prove?

And who has forgotten the launch of Financial Times by The Times group 20 yers ago that has stymied the launch of the original FT for the last 20 years?

Editors Guild backs ‘Times Now’ in libel case

15 November 2011

The Supreme Court of India has declined to intervene in a Bombay High Court case against Times Now, directing the channel to deposit Rs 20 crore with the court registry along with a bank guarantee of Rs 80 crore, in a libel case involving the former chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice P.B. Sawant.

The case relates to a 2008 incident in which Justice Sawant’s photograph was shown in a 6.30 pm news report on the provident fund scam, instead of that of Justice P.K. Samanta, then of the Calcutta high court. A court in Poona directed Times Now to pay Rs 100 crore in damages, against which the channel appealed before Bombay HC.

The Editors Guild of India* has issued the following statement:

“The Editors Guild of India expresses its concern at the implications of today’s ruling of the Supreme Court, rejecting a Special Leave Petition seeking a stay against a High Court decree for damages worth Rs 100 crore against the Times Global Broadcasting Company Limited.

“While recognising that the law of defamation is an important qualification of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, the Guild believes that the law of defamation has to be construed in such a manner that it does not constrain the normal functioning of the media.

“An unintentional error because of a technical mix-up is in a different category from malicious or intentional libel. If inadvertent errors were to be met with punitive fines, it would make it difficult and indeed hazardous for journalists and media organisations to carry out their professional duties.

“The Guild notes that in the present case the photograph of Justice P.B. Sawant was shown mistakenly as being involved in the Ghaziabad District Court Provident Fund Scam because of the similarity of names with another judge. There was no malice. The error was corrected within 15 seconds, and for five days the channel issued a public apology to the wronged judge.”

* Disclosures apply

The Times of India, Indiatimes.com and IPL-4

10 May 2011

Not so long ago, a much-feared Indian publisher who shall go unnamed wanted the broadband expansion in India to be slowed down because, well, it would woo readers away from his newspaper to the world wide web.

Well, the times, they are a-changing.

Last month, Indiatimes.com, the internet arm of The Times of India group, bagged the global internet, mobile and audio rights for season 4 of the Indian Premier League (IPL), and the happy coverage of the happy event, and its happy fallout, is a standout example of the perils of cross-media ownership.

Here’s a brief timeline of how the IPL-Indiatimes partnership has been covered on the pages of The Times of India and The Economic Times.

***

March 22: TIL-Nimbus bag IPL media rights

“Our convergent media approach across the web and mobile, coupled with the strength of the entire Times Group, will take brand IPL to the next level for audiences across the globe,” said Times Internet Limited CEO Rishi Khiani.

April 6: IPL advertising rates hit record highs

“Several traditional brands, who would earlier consider advertising only on television, are now keen to also launch their online campaigns. The primary drivers are innovation and interactivity, possible through this medium. Advertisers will get an opportunity to do better targeted campaigns and reach out to a younger demographic of office-goers,” he said.

April 9: IPL4 live streaming huge hit on Indiatimes

Live streaming of the inaugural IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings on Friday turned out to be a big hit on the net. The Indiatimes site, where this edition of the IPL is being hosted, had as many as 500,000 unique visitors, a healthy jump from last year…. “The first day was an enormous success,” said Rishi Khiani, CEO Indiatimes. “We had nearly 100% uptime which was a great feat given the amount of traffic.”

April 12: Indiatimes partners with YouTube to globally distribute IPL matches

Under the terms of the agreement, Google will be a non-exclusive partner for IPL content for two years. Both Google and Indiatimes will seek to capitalize upon individual brand strengths and collaborate on monetization efforts both in India and rest of world markets.

April 15: IPL web audience continues to grow through joint distribution

Times Internet CEO Rishi Khiani said the online audience for IPL was experiencing rapid growth compared to the previous edition of the 20-20 league. “We used the first 2 days of the season to iron out all of the kinks in getting the experience to work perfectly for everyone. But from the beginning, the audience growth has been trending higher, with every next day having more visitors than the day before it. On Wednesday we had over one million visits.”

April 19: Online viewership of IPL rises 62%

“We foresee a bright future for online screening of IPL matches in coming years,” said Rishi Khiani, CEO, Times Internet. “A common misconception is that people only watch online from the office. But our stats show that night games have almost as much consumption as day games. The experience allows you to do much more online, including watching highlights of previous matches, and viewers like that,” he added.

April 28: Watching IPL more fun online than on television?

Indiatimes CEO Rishi Khiani said: “We routinely receive one comment per second during a match, which can spike up to three comments per second during exciting periods. Indians are passionate about cricket and love talking about it, and what better way to do so than online? You can catch up with old friends, make new ones, share stats and trivia, get involved in debates – and do all this without missing a single ball.”

Also read: IPL scorecard: Different scores for different folks

How come no one saw the IPL cookie crumbling?

The Times of India and the Commonwealth Games

Look, who’s in the IPL racket? An editor!

The “journalist” who offered a Rs 2 crore bribe?

3 May 2011

Journalists and media houses are turning out to be key go-betweens and beneficiaries in the 2G spectrum allocation scam that has already seen a Union minister and several corporate honchos go behind bars.

Several famous scribes have found themselves on the infamous Niira Radia tapes, at least one journalist’s house has been raided, and a TV channel has been named as the recipient of the bribe money.

Despite the strongarm tactics adopted by Ratan Tata‘s Tatasons against The Times of India group with obvious commercial implications, The Economic Times continues to lead the way in its coverage of the scam.

This time, Rohini Singh shines the light on the burgeoning breed of middlemen-journalists, for whom the press information bureacu (PIB) accreditation card is, well, the gift that continues to give.

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Economic Times

***

Also read: What Niira Radia told PAC on Barkha Dutt chat

Have the Tatas blacklisted The Times of India again?

Four lessons in journalism from the Tatas’ chief PRO

Tamil journalist’s house raided in 2G spectrum scam

Nakkheeran journo denies wife worked for Radia firm

2G scam bribe was diverted to Tamil TV channel

Has media credibility suffered a body blow in 2G scam?

‘Rabid, right-wing, Fox News on Acid.’ Yet 74%?

25 February 2011

A news item on the business pages of The Times of India:

Times Now most viewed during PM press conference

Mumbai: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s televised news conference last week was most watched on Times Now. According to rating agency TAM, 74% viewers among 25-plus males in big cities watched the PM on Times Now. Competitor NDTV 24X7 had 4% viewership and CNN-IBN 2% in the same segment.

***

Meanwhile, the writer-academic Amitava Kumar interviews the writer-activist Arundhati Roy for the American arts and politics magazine, Guernica.

In the introduction to the interview, Kumar writes:

We
Have to be
Very
Careful
These Days
Because…

“That is what I read on the little green, blue, and yellow stickers on the front door of Arundhati Roy’s home in south Delhi. Earlier in the evening I had received a message from Roy asking me to text her before my arrival so that she’d know that the person at her door wasn’t from Times Now. Times Now is a TV channel in India that Roy memorably described, for non-Indian readers, as “Fox News on acid.” The channel’s rabidly right-wing anchor routinely calls Roy “provocative” and “anti-national.”

“Last year, when a mob vandalized the house in which Roy was then living, the media vans, including one from Times Now, were parked outside long before the attack began. No one had informed the police. To be fair, Times Now wasn’t the only channel whose OB Van was parked in front of Roy’s house. But that too is a part of the larger point Roy has been making.

“Media outlets are not only complicit with the state, they are also indistinguishable from each other. The main anchor of a TV channel writes a column for a newspaper, the news editor has a talk show, etc. Roy told me that the monopoly of the media is like watching “an endless cocktail party where people are carrying their drinks from one room to the next.”

Then, in response to a question from Amitava Kumar on the move to arrest her on grounds of sedition for advocating azadi (freedom) for Kashmir, Arundhati Roy responds:

“Interestingly, the whole thing about charging me for sedition was not started by the Government, but by a few right-wing crazies and a few irresponsible media channels like Times Now which is a bit like Fox News on acid. Even when the Mumbai attacks happened, if you remember it was the media that began baying for war with Pakistan. This cocktail of religious fundamentalism and a crazed, irresponsible, unaccountable media is becoming a very serious problem, in India as well as Pakistan. I don’t know what the solution is. Certainly not censorship…”

Read the full article: The un-victim

Also read: Arnab Goswami edges out Barkha Dutt on power list

It happened one night on the day of the eclipse…

Times Now, Times Now, Times Now, Times Now

A blank editorial, a black editorial & a footnote

12 October 2010

When Indira Gandhi introduced media censorship as part of the Emergency in 1975, Indian newspapers ran blank editorials as a form of protest.

The Kannada newspaper Vijaya Karnataka, belonging to The Times of India group, runs a blank (and black) editorial today, in protest against what happened in the State legislative assembly on Monday, during the trust vote moved by the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

And in white type set on 60% black, editor Vishweshwar Bhat writes this small footnote at the bottom:

“The unseemly occurrences in the assembly on Monday should make every citizen bow his head in shame. The manner in which our elected representatives behaved is unpardonable. They have dealt a deadly blow to democracy. While criticising this, we symbolically represent the silent outrage of the people in this form.”

Also read: B.G. Verghese on the introduction of Emergency

Kuldeep Nayar: Hindu, HT were the worst offenders in 1975

H.Y. Sharada Prasad: Middle-class won’t understand Indira

People, not the press, are the real fourth estate in India

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

Why media must not rush to report FIR in rapes

28 April 2009

On the face of it, a First Information Report (FIR) may be a public document which can be obtained from the concerned magistrate. And once a judicial trial begins, the FIR and the evidence of the witnesses comes within the public domain as the judicial proceedings are open to the public.

However, this is not the case in rape cases, writes lawyer and human rights activist Monica Sakhrani, alluding to Mumbai Mirror‘s coverage of a rape case in which it very nearly identified the victim, which drew the ire of women’s groups.

“[Such publication] would lead to fewer and fewer women coming forward to register cases of sexual assault where in any case, women have to bear the blame of at best being stupid and at worst being promiscuous liars.

“It takes tremendous courage and strength to take recourse to law by a woman in a case of sexual assault where she stands to lose as much as the accused.

“One must also not lose sight of the fact that the legal discourse is fundamentally a patriarchal discourse with its value loaded binary of chastity versus promiscuity, shame versus brazenness.

“The very fact that the woman has ‘come out in the open’ by filing the case, condemns her and justifies a vilification campaign through use of arguments of public interest which are invasive of privacy. In effect the site of challenge of patriarchy is itself patriarchy. The press coverage and the publication of the FIR in this case is a case to point.”

Read the full article: Free speech and breach of privacy

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

Link courtesy Shobha Sarada Viswanathan

‘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

Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

9 January 2008

The selling of the news columns in Indian newspapers, a pernicious practice that deliberately blurs the distinction between independently generated news and paid advertisements, has assumed pandemic proportions with language publications unabashedly apeing the market-leader The Times of India, which pioneered the move.

But, it now turns out that even paid advertisements are no longer what they seem in the Times group. Very often, they are tied to the group’s investments in select companies. The news and advertising exposure these companies get in its publications, boosts their stock prices, that swells the bottomline of the investing company.

It’s a win-win but guess who loses?

SUCHETA DALAL, India’s numero uno business investigative journalist who cracked open the Harshad Mehta case, and who now runs the personal finance magazine MoneyLIFE, throws light on a new strategy of the group that “tears down every shred of the wall between editorial, advertising and public relations”, and takes readers and investors for a royal ride.

***

By SUCHETA DALAL

If you are an investor who depends on India’s largest-selling economic newspaper for unbiased news, then you must know and understand the concept of “private treaties” (PT). Since The Times of India (TOI) far outsells every other English newspaper and The Economic Times is by far the market leader in the economic news category, the concept is of universal interest.

Although PTs sound like agreements between two sovereign nations, they are, in fact, pacts between the Times of India group and approximately 100-odd companies, under which TOI buys shares of small and fast-growing companies. The list is expanding rapidly.

In an article for India-Seminar on “The changing Indian media scene“, T.N. Ninan, editor of Business Standard, described PTs as “basically the transfer of shares in return for advertising.” He said, Bennett Coleman & Co, which owns the Times of India group of publications, “invests in usually mid-rung companies that are keen to jump into the big league but are perhaps without the big bucks to spend on marketing. The share purchase money is immediately taken back against the promise of guaranteed advertising in Bennett publications—to build the investee company’s brand(s). Part of the deal is even said to be editorial coverage, though this remains unconfirmed.”

Ninan goes on to say, “If true, by definition, this will have to be positive coverage” because “the brands have to be built up, so that the shares bought by Bennett gain in value and can be sold.”

Well, reports of guaranteed editorial coverage are no longer “unconfirmed”, as Ninan put it.

MoneyLIFE has in its possession a document to prove that journalists are being designated as “champions” for PT clients to tailor editorial coverage to enhance the value of these companies and TOI‘s investment.

An e-mail by The Economic Times editor Rahul Joshi (dated 29 November 2007) says:

“At ET, we are carving out a separate team to look into the needs of Private Treaty clients. Every large centre will have a senior editorial person to interface with Treaty clients. In turn, the senior edit person will be responsible, along with the existing team, for edit delivery. This team will have regional champions along with one or two reporters for help—but more importantly, they will liaise with REs (Resident Editors) and help in integrating the content into the different sections of the paper. In this way, we will be able to incorporate PT into the editorial mainstream, rather than it looking like a series of press releases appearing in vanilla form in the paper.”

Joshi then goes on to name the PT “champions” for each region, who will “advise” the regional editorial chief to carry ‘stories’ about PT clients. He also designates “trouble shooters” in each region, probably to ensure that no PT client is offended with negative coverage.

While this kind of support for advertisers in the editorial pages is extraordinary anywhere in the world, it is important to remember that there is nothing clandestine about what TOI is doing. The PT arrangement, along with all the “benefits” that would accrue to those who sign up, along with testimonials from successful PT customers such as Nirmal Jain of India Infoline and others is on two group websites. These are www.privatetreaties.com and timesprivatetreaties.com.

In the past two years, TOI has invested over $500 million (approximately Rs 2,000 crore) in 114-odd companies in diverse businesses. It is a private equity firm.

TOI claims that when these companies are mentioned editorially, its investment in them is mentioned. Indeed, one occasionally notes such a mention, but how many investors understand what PT stands for or the relationship that is implied? Moreover, while such a disclaimer may work when a press release is published, will it be followed when journalist “champions” work hard to “integrate the content” to ensure that it does not look like “vanilla” press releases?

Typically, the Times group buys a 5%-10% stake in mid-sized companies that are planning to go public or looking for private equity. The investment can vary from Rs 10 crore to Rs 100 crore. The company agrees to invest an equal amount in advertising in Times publications over a three-to-five-year period at a steep discount to the normal advertising rates.

Most companies that sign PTs are those planning public issues, selling expensive realty projects or looking for private equity. All of them are looking for publicity and an assurance of positive editorial coverage. For the Times, it is usually a double bonanza: significant capital appreciation and tax-free income (since there is no long-term capital gains tax)—on the other hand, advertising revenue is fully taxed.

Investors must know the exact list of Times PT clients (which is available on their website for easy reference) because you are least likely to hear any bad news about these companies. They include:

# Deccan Aviation
# Sobha Builders
# India Infoline
# Emaar MGF
# Celebrity Fashion Ltd
# The Home Store
# Amity Education
# Media Video Ltd
# Vishal Retail Pvt Ltd
# Zicom
# Ezeegol.com
# Avesthagen
# Bartronics Ltd
# Paramount Airways
# Almondz
# Archies
# Future Group
# Thyrocare
# Raja Rani Travels
# Sahara One
# Percept Pictures, etc.

It offers “advertising support, branding support and corporate image development.”

PT’s vision is stated as follows:

# We dare to go where no one has dreamt of venturing before.
# We seek advertising clients that no one wants.
# We look for value that no one sees.
# We co-create wealth that no one imagines.

All this is fine from the business perspective of the Times. Where does the group’s “win-win relationship” with PT customers leave the readers/investors? They clearly do not figure in the equation at all. The group indeed tests the limits in what passes off as news, but in the cut-throat fight for the advertising buck, what exactly is an “advertising client that no one wants”? Surely, not India Infoline?

The PT website lists every press release issued on behalf of PT clients. The headlines alone reveal the slant. For instance:

# ‘Skyscrapers all set to change Noida skyline’ (TOI)
# ‘Milk & Honey Towns’ (ET)
# ‘Companies rake in big moolah serving NRIs’
# ‘Sai Info to come up with 18 e-malls by March’
# ‘Airline mergers is bad news for consumers’ (for Paramount Airlines)
# ‘What you get is exactly what you have paid for’ (for Gitanjali)
# ‘Parajia has ability to swing big deals’ (for India Infoline)
# ‘Gitanjali Lifestyle to ride high on luxury’
# ‘Reason to Smile’ (for GTL, earlier Global Telesystems)
# ‘Pantaloons rolls out the red carpet to woo the last minute Durga Puja shopper in Kolkata’
# ‘Bajaj bros resume legal battle over empire’ (this one for Bajaj Hindusthan is particularly interesting) and finally check this one for Osian—‘India’s brush with soccer is all set for a change. History is being re-written on a new canvas and the view looks optimistic’.

This unique “win-win” situation indeed works wonderfully well in a monster bull run. While companies and the publishing group are the real winners, the investors are losing nothing at the moment. But remember this is a two-year-old concept and the implications of tearing down every shred of the wall between editorial, advertising and PR will be evident only when things look less sunny for the markets and the economy.

Photograph: courtesy suchetadalal.com

***

Crossposted on churumuri.com

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