Posts Tagged ‘Times Group’

An Editor explains ‘Arnab Goswami’ to an NRI

19 November 2013

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picture-20For most TV news consumers, Arnab Goswami is both a name and a phenomenon. But there are still large parts of the world to be conquered by Times Now‘s bulldog of an inquisitor.

B.V. Rao, editor of Governance Now, explains the name and the phenomenon to a childhood friend who lives in Canada.

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Dear Sharada

Sometime ago during a Googlegroup discussion you innocently asked: “But who is Arnab?”.

In India not knowing Arnab is against national interest. You are lucky you live in Canada. But if you don’t want to be deported on arrival on your next visit, you better pay attention to this complimentary crash course on the subject.

Arnab, as in Arnab Goswami, is India’s most-watched prime time news anchor and editor-in-chief of Times Now*. But designations don’t even begin to describe him or what he is famous for.

You must have heard about hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Arnab is also a storm, a news-storm that hits India every night via his show, the “Newshour”. Nobody is quite sure how, but somehow Arnab gets to know the questions that the “whole nation” wants answers for, or the sinners the nation wants hanged before midnight that night.

In effect then, Arnab speaks for a “billion-plus people” each time he takes centre-stage.

I can’t say for sure if he took this burden upon himself voluntarily or if his employers made it a contractual obligation. Whatever it is, the fact is that Arnab has come to relish asking the most “simple and direct” questions to the most dubious people demanding instant answers to complex problems because the “nation wants to know” and it wants to know “tonight” as in right now.

That’s how impatient India has become while you’ve been away, Sharada.

***

The Newshour airs on weekdays from 9 pm and continues till Arnab’s pleasure lasts. Often the show stretches up to 10.50 pm. That’s actually “News hour-and-three-quarters-and-then-some” but I guess Arnab has not asked himself a “simple, direct” question: how many minutes make an hour?

That, or his primary school maths teacher is not his viewer. In which case it is safe to say Arnab speaks for a billion-plus minus one Indians.

You will see that at the altar of national interest it is not just the hour that is stretched.

About two decades ago, Dileep Padgaonkar was the editor of the Times of India owned by the Jains of Bennett & Coleman who also own Times Now. Padgaonkar had pompously proclaimed that he held the second most important job in the country after the prime minister’s.

Arnab hasn’t said it, but I think he disagrees with Padgaonkar on the pecking order:  it’s now the prime minister who holds the second most important job in the country.

Hence Arnab runs the show like he would run the country or like the prime minister should but doesn’t.

You see, Sharada, there’s an awful lot of stuff the nation wants to know by nightfall but our prime minister isn’t much of a talker. Arnab fills the need gap. He opens his show with a passionate agenda-setting preamble that spells out all the problems of the day and how he wishes to solve them. We gratefully receive this wisdom and call it Arnab’s Address to the Nation, a prime ministerial duty that has fallen on his broad shoulders because the real guy has abdicated it.

***

Let me tell you this, however. Arnab is a very reluctant power-grabber. It is not his intent to upstage the prime minister or make him look silly.

He gives the prime minister an entire day to prove his worth and gets to work only at 9 pm when it is clear that the latter can’t handle stuff.

He then solves all outstanding national issues of the day in just one 110 minute-hour of feverish debates where he grills the skin off the back of everybody who dares to stand in the way of India’s national interest.

He is unrelenting in his pursuit of the truth and doesn’t give up unless everybody has agreed with him.

“I am worried”, “I am concerned”, “I won’t let you politicise”, “I don’t agree”, “you can’t get away….” are some of the phrases he uses to suggest he is in complete control and that endears him to a nation starved of decision-makers.

Arnab hates home work. He wants to settle everything here and now, tonight. As a result, in Arnab country, there is no trace of the policy paralysis that has grounded the prime minister in the real country. Here you get resolutions, decisions, orders, diktats, judgements, justice and denouements all in one place, one show, by one man.

***

The only people paralysed are the subjects of his grilling and the bevy of experts he gathers around himself, not because he needs them, he doesn’t, but because it must feel awfully good to invite experts and out-talk them on national prime time.

Like confused baboons trapped in little boxes, the experts, who are neatly arranged around Arnab’s own imposing self in the centre of the screen, keep staring into nothingness most of the time.

Yes, you get the drift, Sharada, Arnab is the main dish here. The rest are just intellectual dips.

For most of their airtime the experts keep putting up their hands or calling out “Arnab….Arnab….” to indicate they want to make a point. Arnab is too engrossed in disagreeing with what he has not allowed them to say to care too much.

Some clever guests try to appeal to his Assamese roots by hailing “Ornob…Ornob”. He ignores them as well.

Nationalism, after all, is above parochialism. The cleverer among them have cracked the code: they just agree with Arnab in exchange for a little extra air time. These are usually the people who have paid close attention to Arnab’s Address to the Nation and picked up the right cues on what to say that will get them his benefaction.

It is tough to figure out why Arnab needs any experts at all because he knows the answers to all his questions. Times Now insiders say that more often than not he finds questions to the answers he already has. On his show, politicians can’t politicise, bureaucrats can’t beat around the bush, sportspersons can’t play games and lawyers can’t use legalese.

In fact anybody who is good at something can’t do what they are known to do, to the extent that even civil society can’t be civil, especially if it wants to get a word in sideways. Everybody has to be direct, honest, blunt and keep things simple because that is what the (one-man) nation wants.

***

Corruption, political expediency, opportunism, forked tongues, doublespeak, dishonesty and hypocrisy, are red rags to Arnab. He takes them head-on with the help of his reporters who keep throwing up “documentary” evidence ever so often to expose scamsters.

Usually this is a thick sheaf of indistinguishable papers that Arnab holds up threateningly. It could be a bunch of used airline e-tickets for all we know, but since we don’t, he waves the sheaf confidently in the face of the enemies of the nation and it is generally assumed he’s got some incendiary stuff in there.

Arnab’s problem-solving repertoire is not restricted to national boundaries. In fact, he is at his best when dealing with nations that have evil designs on India. The patriot in Arnab is best aroused when he is dealing with that evil, failed, rogue nation called Pakistan.

He deals with Pakistan like no prime minister has ever been able to or decimates it like no Army has ever managed to. Each time a blade of grass bends to the breeze on the LoC, Arnab breathes fire at Pakistan for trying to sneak in terrorists into the country. He lines up a battery of serving and retired generals of Pakistan and conducts the verbal equivalent of a summary execution.

Yet, the same generals keep resurfacing on Arnab’s show each time he feels the urge to have a Pakistani or two for dinner. This causes much wonderment among Newshour hounds on the masochist streak that makes the Pakistani generals offer themselves up as bait repeatedly.

So, it is assumed the money must be good. But since Arnab insists that Pakistan is the way it is only because the generals have sold their country cheap, it is unlikely he is blowing his budget for this routine cross-border target practice. Of course, left to Arnab Pakistan would have existed only as the largest crater on earth since the meteors wiped out all life on the planet. Yes, he would have nuked it many times over by now.

The Times of India, the country’s oldest English newspaper and the mother brand from the Times Now stable runs Aman Ki Aasha (Hope for Peace), the widely-acclaimed campaign for ending India-Pakistan hostilities.

Just as Arnab doesn’t seem to know of this campaign, the Times of India seems quite oblivious of the fact that the last time there was absolute peace on the LoC was when Arnab took a two-week holiday in early September. It could be the marketing genius of the Times group to milk the issue from both ends or it could also be that their internal boundaries are not as porous as our LoC.

Apart from conducting war exercises against Pakistan, Arnab land is eyeball-to-eyeball with China, exposes the double standards of America in almost anything it does and highlights the hypocrisy of racist Australia which loves the education dollars from India but not the brown students who come along with.

His blood boils so much when an old Sikh is roughed up by a bunch of racist women in the UK that he almost gets the whole of Punjab to rise in revolt against the Indian government’s inaction–even though there is nothing it can do as the gentleman is a citizen of the said country–or builds a tide of emotional revulsion against “inhuman” Norway for snatching an infant from his Indian mother’s custody for alleged physical abuse.

I can go on and on, Sharada, but everything good must come to an end and so must my Arnab eulogy.

***

So, in short and in conclusion, here’s what I have to say: Arnab is not just the editor-in-chief of Times Now. He’s India’s protector-in-chief. He is the guy who is keeping India safe while you are away on selfish pursuits. You are lucky you can get away by not knowing him.

For a billion-plus Indians,minus of course his maths teacher, that is not even a distant option. Because, truth told, Arnab is the best we have got!

B.V. Rao

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* Disclosures apply

Photographs: courtesy Unreal Times and Governance Now

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Also read: ‘Arnab Goswami is corrective to babalog media’

Three reasons Arnab Goswami should be PM

There’s a new ‘ism’ in town, it’s Arnabism

How The Times of India went after N. Srinivasan

3 June 2013

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ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: Depending on what you expect of your newspaper, either The Times of India played just the right role in the N. Srinivasan matter: proactively taking up an issue that concerns a “nation of a billion-plus”, right up to the very end, even if it did not secure the end it would have liked.

Or, it plainly overdid it, to the exclusion of all else, eventually falling flat on its face.

Over a 13-day period beginning May 22, ToI ran 87 pieces (outside of general BCCI/IPL pieces) with the BCCI president exclusively in focus and almost all of them either demanding, provoking or predicting the end for Srinivasan following his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan‘s arrest in the alleged IPL betting scandal involving Vindoo Dara Singh.

Among these 87 pieces were seven editorials, mini-editorials and opinion pieces, five interviews, and four cartoons.

It even launched a public service advertising campaign (below) midway through the campaign.

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ToI‘s hunt for Srinivasan’s head—which even as of today is far removed from the original IPL spotfixing scam involving S. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan—began on May 22, the day it launched its “I Lead India” campaign with the poser: “Do you feel you can be a changemaker?”

But it was only on May 28, the day after Srinivasan told a BCCI meeting in Calcutta that he would not resign following his son-in-law’s arrest for his purported involvement in betting, that the ToI coverage took on a more aggressive, advocacy air—eerily reminiscent of the paper’s Commonwealth Games campaign—urging board members, politicians and other sportspersons to speak up or quit to bring pressure on Srinivasan to do the same.

In making the murky BCCI saga its bread, butter, jam and marmalade day after day for 13 days, The Times of India relegated more important but less reader-friendly stories, like the massacre of Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh at the hands of Maoists to the inside pages.

# On May 26, the day after the Chhattisgarh massacre in which 28 people perished, the story was second-lead (as indeed in the Hindustan Times).

# Srinivasan’s fate was the lead ToI story on each of the 13 days; in contrast, the Chhattisgarh ambush found a front-page mention only on four days.

# Altogether, ToI ran 29 stories on Chhattisgarh as opposed to 87 on Srinivasan alone.

# Four times, ToI invoked the name of India Cements, Srinivasan’s company (“India Cements stocks hit 52-week low”, “India Cements brand to take a hit”, “India Cements disowns Meiyappan”, “India Cements underperform peers”) to drive home its point on Srinivasan.

# On May 29, ToI rounded up 30 talking heads seeking Srinivasan’s ouster.

The role of Times Now in drumming up the anti-Srinivasan mood is outside of this quantitative analysis, but with Srinivasan only “stepping aside” for a month at the end of all the sound and fury signifying nothing, the newsworthiness of the Times campaign is open to question.

Below are the Times of India‘s 87 headlines, graphics straplines, intros, editorials, mini-editorials, cartoons, interviews involving Srinivasan over the 13-day period.

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May 22

Lead story: IPL fixing scandal could reach the top

Team-owner’s relative [Gurunath Meiyappan] under lens

Phone records link him with betting syndicate

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May 23

Lead story: Police prepare to question BCCI chief’s son-in-law for betting links Day after TOI‘s report, CSK boss Gurunath Meiyappan elusive

BCCI chief mum on Meiyappan role

Editorial: Clean the Stables

A school dropout, Guru tried to build career in Srinivasan shadow

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May 24

Cops land at BCCI chief’s family’s doorstep Srinivasan’s son-in-law gets summons, seeks time

[CSK] Team boss lost a crore on bets: Vindoo

BCCI brass faces fixing heat

Rules did not stop him from wearing two hats Industry captain and BCCI power player

From Board chief, the silent treatment

Srinivasan also under CBI lens in Jagan Mohan Reddy assets case

BCCI chief may use his clout

Interview: ‘Those at the top in BCCi should resign': Lalit Modi

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May 25

Guru arrested, Srinivasan may lose crown

After hours of grilling, cops say BCCI chief’s son-in-law ‘involved in offence’

Srinivasan rejects growing calls for resignation, threatens to ‘fix’ media

Interview: It’s either Srinivasan or Sahara, says Subroto Roy

India Cements shares at 52-week low

India Cements disowns Gurunath

Is Srini trying to insulate CSK?

Law catches up with the son-in-law

Srinivasan should quit right away, say voices in the BCCI

Interview: A.C. Muthiah has a go at his arch-enemy

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May 26

Real final: Srinivasan vs Rest of India

Ouster plan: first nudge, then shove

‘I won’t be bulldozed into quitting, media unfair': Srinivasan

Graphic: 3/4 majority to remove President

Strapline: Someone’s stepping down

Cricket fans should bat for a change

BCCI prez may manage to stay on

Law will take its course: Board chief on son-in-law Srini meets Meiyappan’s lawyers

‘Brand India Cements to take a hit’

IPL needs to cleanse itself from within

Former stars want BCCI prez to go

Srini men start lobbying, Shukla meets Jagmohan Dalmiya in Kolkata

Interview: ‘It was a huge mistake to bring Srinivasan into administration': A.C. Muthiah

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May 27

Weak-kneed BCCI falls in line as Srinivasan flatly refuses to walk

Strapline: Chief says he is above board

Editorial: The darkest hour—Srinivasan must quit, followed by the overthrow of cricket’s absentee landlord and revamp of BCCI

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May 28

Lead story: Why are they silent?

Cartoon: He is taking bets on who’s going to be the first to resign

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May 29

Lead story: Jyotiraditya Scindia becomes first neta in BCCI to say Srinivasan should resign

Strapline: Across fields, Board boss under fire ‘Time for him to go’

Talking heads with 30 voices

Interview: Srinivasan holds power and wields it: Kishore Rungta

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May 30

Lead story: Finally, Rajiv Shukla and Arun Jaitley say they too want Srinivasan out

Cracks widen in BCCI, even treasurer Ajay Shirke says he would have quit

Strapline: Chorus against Board boss swells

Six talking heads

Srini still has the numbers to hang on

Cheating case filed against Srinivasan

Strapline: Wheels within wheels

Minieditorial: calling for resignation

Jaitley, Shukla asked defiant Srini to quit; BCCI chief said ‘Not in my nature’

Third edit: The Sons-in-law factor, by Bachi Karkaria

Edit page piece: Rip the veil of silence, by Ayaz Memom

May the foes be with you: all the president’s men are fair-weather friends

The endgame has begun

Dalmiya denies he asked Srinivasan not to resign

No one in BCCI asked for his resignation: Shirke

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May 31

Lead story: Majority now against Srinivasan, can call BCCI meet to remove him

Strapline: Board boss on a turning pitch

How Srini gave himself a life term

Srini’s conflict of interest hearing from July 16

Cartoon: I’m going to hang on to this post as long as I want

India Cements underperform peers

Anti-Srini camp won’t wait for probe

19 talking heads on which way board meet will go

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June 1

Lead story: Game all but over for Srinivasan

Six days after BCCI boss declared he had board’s unanimous support, he’s running out of partners His no.2 and no. 3 quit, several more top officials to follow suit

Cartoon: Punchline: The best spot-fixer I’ve seen—he’s so fixed to the spot that no one can get him away from it

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June 2

Lead story: Srini sets terms for exit, BCCI members unwilling to play ball

Strapline: His four demands

Mini editorial

Srinivasan wanted Shukla to go too

Advertisement: “To run sports in India you don’t need to be good in games, only in gamesmanship”

Srinivasan vs ICC

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June 3

Lead story: Match result: all out for no loss

Srinivasan to ‘step aside': some say it’s a face-saver for him, others call it an anti-climax and a sham

Strap line: Will he really sit it out?

Editorial: nation dismayed: BCCI’s credibility lies in tatters as India’s cricket fans are sold a lemon

For Srini, a strategic time out

‘Nobody dared ask Srini to quit, only he spoke for first 40 minutes’

Cartoon: I’ve stepped aside

Srini shot down Shashank Manohar‘s name

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Infographic and advertisement: courtesy The Times of India

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Also read: The Times of India and Commonwealth Games

107 headlines from TOI on Commonwealth Games

How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

ʎlısɐǝ sıɥʇ pɐǝɹ plnoɔ noʎ ɟı ‘suoıʇɐlnʇɐɹƃuoɔ*

15 March 2013

Since its sesquicentennial 25 years ago, under bossman Samir Jain’s helmsmanship, The Times of India has pioneered several editorial and marketing “initiatives”, all of which are scorned at first by the competition and then quietly copied.

On the eve of its dodransbicentennial, after brother Vineet Jain told The New Yorker last year that he was in the advertising business not news business, ToI has run this ad printed the right side up and uʍop ǝpısdn pǝʇuıɹd sʍǝu ǝɥʇ.

So, whose interests come first for the newspaper, the advertiser’s or the reader’s, is not difficult to guess.

ToI CEO Ravi Dhariwal told the South Asia Media Summit in Islamabad recently that the paper’s readers actually welcomed such innovations and looked forward to it: “The reader wants change.”

¿uʍop ǝpısdn pǝʇuıɹd ǝɹɐ sɹǝdɐdsʍǝu ǝloɥʍ ǝɹoɟǝq ɹǝƃuol ɥɔnɯ ʍoɥ

* How to type upside down

Also read: Selling the soul or sustaining the business?

Selling the soul or sustaining the business?—II?

Will Britannia pay TOI for such ‘bad news’ in ads?

The masthead is no longer as sacred as it used to be

‘Talking ads’ in The Hindu and The Times of India

Only the weather section is not sold these days

Now, The Times of India takes on Financial Times

4 August 2012

First, Financial Times took out an advertisement, in the name of its CEO John Ridding, in response to an ad appearing in The Times of India  promoting the desi “Financial Times” published by Times Publishing House.

Now, the Times group has returned the favour with an an ad, not in the name of its CEO but of its company secretary Amita Gola, in response to Ridding’s missive.

Also read: Financial Times takes on The Times of India

Thrice bitten, will FT find real love after 20 years?

Financial Times takes on The Times of India

19 July 2012

The Times of India group’s two-decade long fight with the Financial Times over the use of the FT trademark in India has taken a fresh twist with the Times group announcing the launch of a new edition of a “supplement” titled Financial Times in the Delhi national capital region (NCR).

Launched in the early 1990s in Bangalore, essentially to protect the Economic Times from a foreign player of the size and standing of FT by stymieing its entry, the Times group’s move landed in the courts, where some kind of closure was reached in May this year.

With ToI taking out ads last week for its Financial Times (“Business news now customised for Delhi NCR”), the real Financial Times has hit back with an ad in ToI‘s rival Hindustan Times, that carries a message from its chief executive officer, John Ridding:

“The Financial Times would like to make it clear that the internationally renowned ‘Financial Times‘ newspaper is not in any way associated with the Indian title of the same name, published by Times Publishing House (TPH), part of Bennett, Coleman & Co.”

Curiously, the FT advertisement does not appear in the Indian Express, with which it has entered into a tieup after a breakup with Business Standard.

External reading: An epic battle concludes?

John Elliott: How FT was blocked by India’s media industry

Also read: Thrice bitten, will FT find real love after 20 years?

Bombay Times, Hindustan Times and plagiarism

13 December 2011

Hindustan Times had an ethical malfunction 15 years ago, when its then editor V.N. Narayanan was revealed to have plagiarised over a thousand words of his Sunday column from Bryan Appleyard‘s piece in the Sunday Times of London the previous week. (Narayanan was let go without a formal explanation from the paper as to why a new editor had taken charge.)

Now, The Times of India shines the light on an even wierder case of plagiarism involving HT.

Neha Maheshwari of Bombay Times wrote ‘More than friends’ on the supplement’s television page on December 9. Unbelievable as it may be, ToI says the same piece appeared with the same byline and the same text in the Hindustan Times city supplement HT Cafe on December 11.

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Karthik Srinivasan writes that HT has tendered an “apology”:

 

Image: courtesy Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd

Read the full article: Imitation is the best form of flattery

Also read: How should publications deal with plagiarists?

‘Plagiarists speed up spread of knowledge’

If imitation is the best form of flattery…

The award for the best opening paragraph goes to…

Since flattery is best expressed through imitation—II

Everybody’s is changing the game these days

Good morning, it’s time to go back to bed?

8 November 2011

Just because 96-year-old Khushwant Singh called it the “most readable daily in the world” recently, it doesn’t mean the matter is closed and beyond debate.

Far from it.

The Times of India thankfully thinks just the opposite of Singh “insofaras The Hindu is concerned” in this new TV commercial for ToI‘s three-year-old Madras edition.

With the punchline “Stuck with news that puts you to sleep?”, the TVC makes no effort to hide who, it thinks, is turning Madrasans into Kumbhakarans when the City’s landscape is changing, young achievers are setting new benchmarks, politicians are lavishly dispensing patronage, etc.

The idea, clearly, is to drive home the width and depth of ToI‘s local coverage as opposed to The Hindu‘s much-vaunted international outlook. For, in the 54th second, a close-up shot shows a sleeping giant in the arms of a policeman at a drill session holding the op-ed page of the “Mount Road Mahavishnu”.

Will conveying the opposition as sleep-inducing in “conservative” Madras work? And is getting the nerves jangling with “tactile” news the primary function of a newspaper?

Writes the adman Lakshmipathy Bhat:

“The objective is clearly to create dissonance among the readers of The Hindu by portraying their brand choice as boring. I feel it may make for interesting advertising but will fail to deliver the objective of getting the readers of The Hindu to switch.

“The character of Chennai has changed over the years with the growing IT/Services and automobile industry. For ‘new entrants’ to Chennai, ToI was an alternative to The Hindu. But for die-hard Chennai dwellers, ToI is still an outsider. Questioning their intelligence may end up being counter productive.”

For the record, the 2011 second-quarter results of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) in Madras shows The Hindu (average issue readership: 4.98 lakh) has two-and-a-half times the number of readers as ToI (AIR: 2 lakh readers). Deccan Chronicle has 1.38 lakh readers, and the New Indian Express has 21,000 readers.

Also, for the record, The Times of India is 173 years old; The Hindu is 133 years old.

Also read: The great grandmother of newspaper battles

Any number will do when the game is of numbers

How The Times of India entered Madurai (Market)

How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

31 August 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Six minutes and 20 seconds into his vote of thanks at the culmination of Anna Hazare‘s fast-unto-death last Sunday, the RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal heaped plaudits on the media for the support it had lent to the Jan Lok Pal bill agitation by “articulating the outrage of the nation”.

Pointing at the jungle of anchors, reporters, cameramen and crane operators in the media pen in front of the stage at the Ramlila maidan, Kejriwal said the “media weren’t just doing their job… they are now part of the movement”.

Verbatim quote:

Hum in saari media ke shukr guzaar hain. Yeh aap dekhiye, abhi bhi camera lekar, tadapti dhoop mein khade hain, yeh log. Yeh zaroori nahin, kewal inki naukri nahin thi.  Yeh log ab andolan ka hissa hain. Raat-raat bhar, chaubis-chaubis ghante, bina soye in logon ne hamari andolan mein hissa liya, hum media ke saathiyon ko naman karte hain.”

Kejriwal’s general gratitude was for television whose frenetic and fawning coverage instantly took the message to parts of the country print wouldn’t dream of reaching in the next half a century. (A TV critic wrote last week that a survey of TV coverage of Hazare’s Jantar Mantar fast in April found 5592 pro-Anna segments versus just 62 that were anti-Anna.)

But if Kejriwal had to choose one English language publication in particular for rounding up “Middle India” in round two of the fight for a strong anti-corruption ombudsman, the honour should surely go to The Times of India.

From the day after Anna Hazare was prematurely arrested on August 16 to August 29, the day he ended his fast, the New Delhi edition of The Times of India took ownership of the story and played a stellar role in mobilising public opinion and exerting pressure on the political class.

# Over 13 days, the main section of the Delhi edition of The Times of India, covered the Anna Hazare saga over 123 broadsheet pages branded “August Kranti” (August Revolution), with 401 news stories, 34 opinion pieces, 556 photographs, and 29 cartoons and strips.

# On seven of the 13 days of the fast, the front page of Delhi ToI had eight-column banner headlines. The coverage, which included vox-pops and special pages, even spilled over to the business and sports pages, with the Bofors scam-accused industrialist S.P. Hinduja offering his wisdom.

# In launching a toll-free number for readers to give a “missed call” if they wanted a strong Lokpal bill, ToI was almost indistinguishable from the India Against Corruption movement behind Hazare. ToI claims that over 46 lakh people have registered their vote.

In short, backed by an online campaign titled “ACT—Against Corruption Together” plus the Arnab Goswami  show on Times Now, the Times group provided substantial multi-media heft to the Jan Lok Pal campaign.

In its almost completely uncritical coverage of Round II, The Times of India provided a sharp contrast to the almost completely cynical coverage of Round I by The Indian Express four months ago, the former batting out of his crease for for the wider constituency of the reader, consumer, voter and citizen.

Remarkably, also, for a publication of its size and girth, ToI took an unhesitatingly anti-establishment stand in its headlines and choice of stories, showing where it stood on corruption—an issue agitating readers in its core demographic—in a manner in which most large newspapers are loathe to do.

There were only token negative pieces like the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid calling the protest “anti-Islam”; Dalits wanting a Bahujan Lokpal bill; or Arundhati Roy calling Hazare’s stand “undemocratic”. On the whole, though, ToI coverage was gung-ho as gung-ho goes, especially judging from some of the mythological, militaristic headlines.

Just what was behind the ToI‘s proactive stand still remains to be deciphered.

Was it merely reflecting the angst and anger of its middle-class readership? Was it taking the scams, many of which it broke and which brought the Lok Pal issue to the head, to its logical conclusion? Or, does the involvement of its in-house godman in the proceedings, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living, lend a clue?

Was it willy-nilly taking part in the dark rumours of “regime-change” swirling around Delhi? Or, was it just doing what a good newspaper is supposed to do: taking a stand, making sense of an increasingly complicated world to a time and attention strapped reader, and speaking truth to power?

Whatever be the truth, the fact that ToI took such a popular-with-readers, unpopular-with-government stand when it is involved in a no-holds-barred campaign to stall the implementation of the Majithia wage board recommendations for newspaper employees, speaks volumes of its conviction on the Lok Pal issue.

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August 17: Coverage on 14 pages, 34 news stories, 2 opinion pieces, 41 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Govt can’t stop August Kranti—Morning arrest turns into nightmare for Centre as Anna refuses to leave Tihar unless allowed to protest

Other headlines: 1) A million mutinies erupt across India; 2) Congress’s big blunders; 3) Emergency is the word for Gen Y; 4) Anna held, people hurt; 5) Intellectuals draw parallels with Emergency, JP movement; 6) Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Govt is being arrogant; 7) The Indian protester rediscovers Gandhigiri; 8) Emergency makes a comeback to political lexicon; 9) Annacalypse Now! Angry India on the streets; 10) Emergency redux, say legal experts

Editorial: Wrongful arrest—government action against Anna Hazare leaves it isolated and sans goodwill

Opinion: State vs Anna—Hazare’s arrest serious questions about India’s ‘democratic’ claims

Opinion poll: 92% say govt’s handling of Anna is undemocratic

***

August 18: Coverage on 10 pages, 36 news stories, 3 opinion pieces, 56 photographs, 4 cartoons

Lead headline: People march, govt crawls—sledgehammered by nationwide outrage, UPA withdraws almost all its earlier curbs on Anna protest

Other headlines: 1) Global bank VP on ‘fasting leave’ from Hong Kong; 2) India Inc backs Anna; 3) Dabbawallas, NGOs building ‘Anna Army'; 4) This way or no way, says Anna; 5) Govt fails to move Mount Anna; 6) In Hazare and Baba Ramdev, govt has two powerful adversaries; 7) ‘9 months to arrest Suresh Kalmadi, 3 mins for Anna'; 8)

Editorial: Anna wins the day—With public anger swelling, government must take a stand on corruption

Opinion headlines: 1) Have a referendum on sticking points; 2) Let an independent arbiter decide; 3) Are you an Anna dater, a Jokepalwalla or, worst, a piggyback passionista? 4) Civil society frustrated at lack of government action

***

August 19: Coverage on 9 pages, 26 news stories, 4 opinion pieces, 27 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: Judiciary out of Lokpal? Team Anna softens stand

Other headlines: 1) Brand Anna is a rage: youth wear him on T-shirts; 2) Protesters rename Chhatrasal stadium after Anna; 3) Sensing hour of reckoning, Tihar protesters give war cry; 4) ‘Gandhi’ takes world media by storm; 5) Indian editorials slam govt handling; 6) Fight to go on for generations, says Aung San Syu Ki; 7) Expatriates in south east Asia rally round Anna;

Editorial: Seize the day—reform is a powerful anti-corruption tool

Opinion headlines: 1) It’s the middle class, stupid; 2) 10 measures to reduce corruption

***

August 20: Coverage on 8 pages, 30 news stories, 3 opinion pieces, 46 photographs, 2 cartoons

Lead headline: Anna rides wrath yatra, ups ante

Other headlines: 1) On fourth day of fast, 74-year-old outsprints cops; 2) He gives supporters a run for their money; 3) ‘I am Anna’s Krishna in the Mahabharata against graft'; 4) Cap fits: no weakening satyagraha—gives call for ‘second freedom movement’, will fight till last breath; 5) Amma Hazares join the cause; 6) Protest tourism: why Anna catches their (foreigners’) fancy; 7) ‘Parliament isn’t supreme, public is’

Editorial: When khaki met khadi—a confused cop learns about being civil, through agitation

Opinion headlines: 1) Which democracy do we want? 2) Reclaiming moral authority

***

August 21: Coverage on 8 pages, 25 news stories,  2 opinion pieces, 36 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Angry tide forces Manmohan’s hand

Other headlines: 1) 35% drop in crime during Hazare’s fast; 2) Parents bring kids to Anna ki pathshala; 3) Painter plans to capture ‘Anna legacy’ till passage of bill; 2) Parents want kids to see history being made; 5)  Over one million join ToI anti-graft drive;

Opinion headlines: 1) Arrest corruption, not those who protest against it; 2) Why I’d hate to be in Hazare’s chappals

***

August 22: Coverage on 7 pages, 23 news items, 1 opinion piece, 28 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: All roads lead to Annapolis

Other headlines: 1) Crowding glory—over one lakh throng Ramlila ground; 2) Protestors take metro, ridership at New Delhi jumps by 50%; 3) Religious lines blur for Anna’s cause; 4) Anna gives call for revolution to surging masses; 5) Lockedpal: earn our trust, team Anna tells govt; 6) Anna’s  army pickets netas’ homes

Opinion headline: Re-negotiating democracy

***

August 23: Coverage on 10 pages, 30 news stories, 2 opinion pieces, 46 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Govt may relent, put PM under Lokpal

Other headlines:  1) Gen Y  rocks to Anna’s beat; 2) At maidan, 80,000 celebrate carnival against corruption; 3) Behind the public face, a very private man; 4) Aam admi thinks bill is cure-all; 5)  Anna proves the power of the big idea: management gurus

Editorial: Start talking—dialogue and flexibility can break the Lokpal logjam

***

August 24: Coverage on 9 pages, 35 news items, 1 opinion piece, 38 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: Govt bends 70%, Anna seeks 90%

Other headlines: 1) 22 newborns in MP named after Anna; 2) ‘Don’t let them take me'; 3) Unsung soldiers: they sacrifice daily bread for Anna; 4) Maidan doesn’t sleep, volunteers up at dawn; 5) Anna critic Aruna Roy briefs Rahul on grievance bill, calls on Jairam Ramesh; 6) Anger against plutocracy legitimate, says Prakash Karat

Opinion headline: Beyond Anna’s India—is anger against corruption blinding us to other evils?

***

August 25: Coverage on 8 pages, 30 news items, 4 opinion pieces, 38 photographs, 2 cartoons

Lead headline: From breakthrough to breakdown

Other headlines: 1) Braveheart Hazare baffles doctors; 2) Judge follows his conscience, speaks out for Jan Lokpal bill; 3) Destination Ramlila maidan: get a free auto ride; 4) Critic Aruna Roy comes calling; 5) Aamir Khan is brain behind picketing MPs; 6) ‘542 VIPs are making a fool of 120 crore people’

Editorial: The Lokpal moment—it’s a good time for Anna to end his fast and join the discussions

Opinion headlines: 1) Fasting as democracy decays; 2) Celebrities endorse Anna movement in large numbers—they are citizens too

Online toll: 22.7 lakh join ToI online campaign against graft

***

August 26: Coverage on 8 pages, 32 news items, 3 opinion pieces, 38 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: PM walks extra mile, Anna unmoved

Other headlines: 1) 5,000 cops to fortify PM, but Anna army sneaks past posts; 2) Witnessing power of people, says Army chief; 3) Hardliners holding up Lokpal resolution; 4) Angry Anna: UPA ministers take the hit in virtual world; 5) ‘Sonia Gandhi would have handled situation better’

Editorial: Seize this opportunity—Anna Hazare shows flexibility, the govt must do so too

Opinion headline: Finding the middle ground

Online toll: 25,30,251 votes

***

August 27: Coverage on 11 pages, 34 news items, 3 opinion pieces, 50 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: House hopes to send Anna home

Other headlines: 1) Downcast but steadfast; 2) Fast hits country’s financial health—reforms put off because of Anna stir, may take a toll on growth; 3) Sports icons one with Team Anna

Editorial headline: A carnival called India—from Gandhigiri to Annagiri, it’s dhak-dhak go

Opinion headline: Saintliness in politics cuts both ways

Online toll: 32,09,129 votes

***

August 28: Coverage on 9 pages, 35 news items, 2 opinion pieces, 64 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Anna wins it for the people—To break fast at 10 am today as Parliament bows to Hazare’s khwahish and PM sends letter

Other headlines: 1) Anna’s next: India tour for clean leaders; 2) Anna superfast arrives; 3) Anna sets House in order

Opinion headlines: 1) Don’t mess with the middle-class; 2) How to reverse the trust deficit

Online toll: 39,74, 515 votes

***

August 29: Coverage on 12 pages, 31 news items, 4 opinion pieces, 48 photographs, 2 cartoons

Lead headline: Only deferred fast, fight goes on: Anna

Other headlines: 1) Can’t trust govt, have to keep watch: Prashant Bhushan; 2) ‘Battle is won, war has just begun'; 3) ‘This victory is our second freedom'; 4) Anna among top brands online

Editorial: Dance of democracy

Opinion headlines: 1) Has Anna really won? 2) Ways to fit the bill—accommodating Anna’s three key demands will require imaginative lawmaking

***

Also read: Is the Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?

Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar eyeing ‘Kannada Prabha’?

19 March 2010

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Bangalore’s media circles are abuzz with rumours that Kannada Prabha, the struggling Kannada newspaper owned by the New Indian Express group, is being eyed by the Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who also owns the 24×7 Kannada news channel Suvarna News.

Obviously, there are no confirmations or denials of the rumoured deal from either side, but well placed sources say a “strategic investment” is on the way from the cash-flushed former BPL Mobile scion—No. 37 on the India Today powerlist—who has been aiming to expand his print presence in the Kannada media.

Sources in Madras, however, hint at a full-stake sale, rumoured to be in the region of Rs 100 crore.

Those in the know claim a change in the imprint line of the 52-year-old Kannada Prabha could appear as early as April 1, but then it could all turn out to be an April Fool’s joke considering that such rumours have emerged (and died peacefully) several times before.

To be sure, though, Chandrasekhar, 45—who made his pile first in 2005 when he sold BPL mobile after a fallout with his father-in-law and then in 2008 when he sold a majority stake in the Malayalam channel Asianet to Rupert Murdoch—has been looking for print acquisitions in Karnataka and Kerala for a while now.

In 2007, he toyed around with Deccan Herald, till his offer was rebuffed. He revamped the Suvarna News channel largely with print staff who had hopped over from Kannada Prabha. A new paper  with the working title Suvarna Prabha/ Suvarna Karnataka, was on the anvil, till word of a Kannada Prabha buyout broke.

The deal, if it comes through, will be a win-win for both Chandrasekhar and Express bossman Manoj Kumar Sonthalia.

For the former, it will mean one competitor less, a ready network and infrastructure, and a known brand of long vintage but somewhat questionable potential. For the latter, it will mean not having to bleed further in pushing an also-ran product, which has never had a chance, caught as it has been in the crossfire between the Times of India-owned Vijaya Karnataka and Deccan Herald-owned Praja Vani.

The Times of India shut down its translated Kannada language edition ten days ago.

However, both the New Indian Express and Kannada Prabha are published by same holding company, Express Publications (Madurai) Limited, and it is unclear whether Sonthalia has attracted Chandrasekhar’s bulging wallet only in Kannada Prabha or in the English paper as well.

However, there are some who aver that these rumours could just be “dirty tricks” by the Suvarna group—largely comprising ex-Kannada Prabha staffers—to rattle their alma mater. Nearly two dozen KP staffers have left the paper in recent months, many in anticipation of a new paper from the Suvarna stable.

Kannada Prabha was recently in the eye of a storm after it translated and republished a 2007 Taslima Nasrin essay without her permission. Two people lost their lives in the ensuing trouble.

Image: courtesy Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Times of India to shut down Kannada edition

8 March 2010

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, the publishers of The Times of India, have decided to shut down their Kannada edition, published with The Times of India masthead, tomorrow.

An internal email has convened a meeting of all staff of the paper with CEO Sunil Rajshekhar at 4pm on Tuesday, March 9, after nearly a month of rumours of the impending demise.

The March 10 issue of the paper will the last for the paper which has been published since January 2007 under industry veteran Ishwar Daitota.

Rumours are that some of the existing staff of 55 will be absorbed to bring out the proposed Kannada translation of the weekly Crest edition of ToI.

Several versions abound for the sudden closure. The chief among them is that the paper’s rising graph was coming at the cost of Vijaya Karnataka, the Kannada paper purchased by the Times group in 2006 along with Usha Kirana and Vijay Times, from the truck operator turned newspaper publisher, Vijay Sankeshwar.

(Usha Kirana was turned into ToI Kannada to exclusively cater for the Bangalore (Market); the paper largely carried stories translated from the English edition of the paper although a skeletal staff produced original stories. Vijay Times was shut and turned into the tabloid Bangalore Mirror.)

Vijaya Karnataka has seen its market leader status diminish in the face of a strong comeback from Praja Vani, the Kannada daily published by the Deccan Herald group. Its ABC numbers have fallen for two cycles in a row. ToI Kannada insiders say their paper was being held responsible for the lack of growth of VK in the key Bangalore market, prompting VK to go in for an expensive relaunch and redesign to stem the damage.

For the last few days, Vijaya Karnataka was being supplied free with ToI Kannada in Bangalore to convert existing readers.

Another version has it that although ToI Kannada was gaining numbers (it was selling between 30,000-60,000 copies depending on who you asked), it was not attracting any advertising on its own; most of its advertising coming from package deals sold by ToI.

Yet another version has it that the management saw little hope for the paper, and only more expenses, with Rajeev Chandrashekhar‘s impending foray into the newspaper world to complete his Suvarna stable.

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