Monthly Archives: July 2009

‘The endgame is near for both TV 18 and NDTV’

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Indian media houses, generally speaking, have been cagey in reporting the economic downturn and what it is doing to the man (and woman) on the street. They haven’t ignored it, of course, but they have been, let’s say, less boisterous than they were when reporting the boom.

At one level, this is because of the widely held belief that gloom doesn’t sell. “Let us report what is happening, but let us not amplify it too much,” one top Hindi publisher wrote in an email to several co-publishers a few months ago. At another level, this is because of the belief that the blip was temporary and the good times would soon be back.

The good times may soon be here, so help me god, but will they be for India’s most glamourous television houses?

Moneylife, the personal financial magazine run by India’s pioneering business investigative journalist Sucheta Dalal and her husband Debashis Basu, has a special report on the state of of TV18, the BSE-listed company of Raghav Bahl (in picture), which runs CNBC-TV18 and the Hindi business channel CNBC Awaaz, among other businesses.

It is nothing short of eye-popping.

“Bleeding to Death?” reads the headline.

The story, authored by Debashis Basu, talks of the “horrifying story of cyclical revenues and non-cyclical costs,” and it warns that “things may only get worse”.

It compares TV 18’s current plight with NDTV’s.

“Both are losing profusely. Losses were a little lower when the [Indian] economy grew by 9% and the market euphoria fetched the two groups newer dumb investors and more money to keep going. But now, both are nearing this endgame.”

In broadcasting (CNBC TV18 and CNBC Awaaz), Basu writes that revenues are down and profits have collapsed due to higher costs. In web (,, etc) revnues of Rs 65 crore have been overtaken by losses of Rs 66 crore. The newswire and printing businesses are not doing too well either.

Basu writes that TV18’s financial situation today is the result of accumulated sins of the past couple of years: the expansion of web-based businesses with no profitability in sight, huge expenses on staff and stock options, to finance which the company stares at a mountain of debt close to Rs 850 crore.

Even with the stock markets clawing back, Basu concludes that “the problems of TV18 have just started” because the economics of the business has changed with the entry of new players like ET Now, and with rumours of heightened competition in the form of Bloomberg.

“The big issue for TV18 is exactly what hit NDTV a few quarters earlier: how to keep funding the losses? One way out is taking on more debt hoping that the businesses would reviee…. Or get foreign media companies to buy your story….

“Even if there is value in some parts of the group, Raghav Bahl has locked up that value in a complicated group structure that got created when he funded these businesses as a network of entities, not independent businesses. So squeezed between competition on one side and cash crunch on the other, the endgame for TV18 begins.”

IBN18, which runs CNN-IBN, IBN Lokmat, IBN7, have always been losing money.

Read the full TV18 article: Bleeding to death?

Read the full NDTV article: Reality show

Also read: How the Indian media dream went sour

Is this man the new media mogul of India?

26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

The 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros

Lucky with 13, will ‘Dalda’ get lucky at 96?


She is India’s first woman photojournalist. In the 1940s and ’50s, her sari-clad figure is said to have been a familiar figure in Delhi, bicycling from assignment to assignment. She was paid one rupee (2 cents) for each of her first eight pictures published in The Bombay Chronicle in 1938.

Today, Homai Vyarawalla is 96 years of age. She was born in 1913. She met husband-to-be Maneckshaw when she was 13. Her first car’s licence plate was “DLD 13”. She sold her 1955 Fiat, her partner for 55 years, two months ago to lay her hands on the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano.

Tata Motors put her name on a priority list for the delivery of the car. Central Bank of India sent its clerk to collect the deposit amount of Rs 95,000. The first Tata Nano was delivered to a customer on July 17.

Ms Vyarawalla, who lives in Baroda, waits in eager anticipation:

“I stay alone and do everything on my own. I get things for myself from the market, and it is easier when you have a car. It is good on the company’s part which realised my urgency and came forward to offer it.”

Ms Vyarawalla still takes a few pictures, but as she said in a 2006 interview:

“I am busy getting old. Though I like to take general photographs of streets and common people, I am not into political photography in a milieu where dignity and discipline are no longer a virtue.”

Photograph: Homai Vyarawalla poses with her Speed Graphic Pacemaker Quarter Plate camera (courtesy Frontline)

Also read: The launch that showcased a thousand slips

Which paper or TV station will do this story first?

Is economic downturn the best time for redesign?

It’s the season for the redesign of websites. In just the last three weeks,, The Times of India and Hindustan Times have gone in for a overhaul of their home pages.

Outlook*, the weekly newsmagazine published from Delhi, has just joined the pack. Above is the new home page created by editor Sundeep Dougal and his team*; below is the old one.

Gone is the old, uneven, cluttered four-column grid with ads spilling out of smaller screens. In its place is a more modular, customisable homepage with clear demarcations of categories, and lots of white space.

* Disclosures apply

Everybody knows what GIEM is, who TGI India is


Don’t magazines, newspapers have anything to claim?” is a story on “sans serif” in response to television channels constantly claiming to be one-up over the rest either in their ratings or predictions.

Well, The Week, the weekly newsmagazine published by the Malayala Manorama group, has responded in a Freudian sort of way with this full-page ad designed by Mudra advertising in its latest issue.

Change your outlook. There is a new No.2.

“With more readers on its side, THE WEEK is the new No.2 GIEM. So if your brand is looking for the opinion leaders, it’s about time you changed your outlook.”

Source: TGI India 2008

Largest minus largest-read is equal to 3.76 crore

Television ratings are like the Bhagavad Gita for TV companies. They can read into it what they want to read out of it. Which is why each TV station claims to be No. 1 and still somehow turns out to be right in its own way.

Ditto, newspaper readership figures.

Round one of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) is out, and to the surprise of nobody, India’s two biggest Hindi dailies—Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar—are both claiming no.1 status.

“IRS officially states that the redership of a single publication Dainik Jagran is higher than the readership of other publication groups,” screams the Jagran ad (below), which publishes 36 editions from 11 states and has claims “5.5 crore readers”.

In response, Dainik Bhaskar, which too publishes from 11 States but has 48 editions in three languages and claims “1.74 crore readers”: “That’s what makes us the largest read newspaper group.”

Also read: Never let facts come in the way of a good story

Do papers, magazines have nothing to claim?

“TV channels stump particle/ astrophysicists”




The game of up-onemanship—yes, you read that right, up-onemanship—between Indian television stations on who is behind them, and at what micro-second of the day, has become a bit of a joke.

Many have caught it, of course, but only GAUTAMA P. has been smart enough to decide to do something about it.

On the newly launched Noise of India (mission statement: “putting the mock back in democracy”), Gautama skewers all, spares none.

The TRP-trippers get preferred treatment:

Bangalore: Senior scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, have expressed alarm at the uncontrolled proliferation of TV channels claiming maximum viewership.

Scientists at the IISc are like, WTF. They point out that in any given universe, one and only one TV channel can be the most viewed at standard temperature and pressure.

Malayalee particle physicist Prof. Unnikrishnan has blamed this anomaly on the wave-particle duality of electrons, due to which a single electron can seem to be at two different places at the same time….

Bengali astrophysicists Prof. Bose and Dr. Ghose have ridiculed Prof. Unni’s theory, saying that it begins with an anomaly and ends up with an anomalayalee. Bose and Ghose claim that it is a mistake to think that we live in a single universe with multiple TV channels.

According to them, each TV channel is a full-fledged parallel universe with its own set of laws and award ceremonies. The viewers exist in remote zones from where they use their remotes to switch between the TV universes. Naturally, each TV channel enjoys total viewership within its own universe, just like DD continues to, with Krishi Darshan.

When reached for comment, Unni refuted the Bengali theory, saying that two Bongs don’t make a right.

Visit the site: Noise of India

Also read: Never let facts come in the way of a good story

Do papers, magazines have nothing to claim?

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach?

indian express

A number of Indian media houses have set up media schools over the years, partly to give something back to the profession, partly because they think existing journalism schools do not turn out recruitment-ready products, but largely to ensure a steady inflow of journalists at a time of heightened competition when everybody is poaching.

The Times of India set up the Times School of Journalism in Delhi, closed it, and then reopened it in Bombay as the Times School of Media Studies. The Indian Express started the Asian College of Journalism in Bangalore which moved to Madras when The Hindu took over.  The Malayala Manorama group opened the Manorama School of Communication. The Pioneer has the Pioneer Media School. And so on.

Into this crowded space, the northern faction of the Indian Express group has bounced into the academic space by launching the Express Institute of Media Studies.

Visit the website:

It happened one night on the day of the eclipse

250px-Arnab-new roy

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Chalk and cheese can never taste the same. Bill O’Reilly can never be confused for Walter Cronkite. But, on the night of the longest solar eclipse in the 21st century, probably because of it, something close happened on Indian TV.

Prannoy Roy (right), the calm and cultivated voice of assurance of India’s original private broadcaster New Delhi Television (NDTV), was confused by a talking head for Arnab Goswami, the shrieking, shouting, hectoring, haranguing face of its competitor, Times Now.

Not on a rival channel but on Roy’s own NDTV, the channel where Goswami cut his television teeth before jumping ship to launch the news channel for The Times of India group as its “Howard Beale“.

On “India Decides @ 9”, NDTV’s primetime show which now sees Roy making an increasing number of appearances, possibly to counter Goswami’s 9 pm appearance on the Newshour, the BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad was asked a question on the topic of the day: the government’s alleged capitulation to the United States on the nuclear deal.

Little realising which channel he was on, Prasad proceeded to deliver his setpiece answer:

“Let me tell you, Arnab Goswami….”

“Arnab Goswami?” Roy tried to intervene.

But Prasad went on merrily as Roy, 60, buried his face on screen. After Prasad finished, Roy said it was in the fitness of things that he read out his bio-data—that he was Prannoy Roy, not Arnab Goswami.

When Prasad tried to apologise for the goof-up, Roy was graciousness personified.

“It’s OK if you call me Arnab Goswami. He’s part of the NDTV family. He’s one of us. He was born and brought up here.”

The confusion was probably caused because the Outdoor Broadcasting (OB) vans of different channels line up before the offices and residences of the spokesmen of the various political parties, who appear on different stations one after the other, with barely enough time to catch their breath.

Doubtless, Ravi Shankar Prasad was on Times Now immediately after his NDTV appearance, where, mercifully, he did not confuse Arnab Goswami for his bete noire Rajdeep Sardesai, who co-hosts “India at Nine”. Sardesai, like Goswami, left Roy’s NDTV to launch CNN-IBN.

Roy can only hope that, like the solar eclipse, this eclipse will only last a short while, and that not many may have seen it due to the inclement weather.

What if nobody wants the serious stuff?

Ted Turner who created CNN and invented the 24-hour news cycle, on celebrity journalism, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“The greatest fear we could possibly have today is an uninformed electorate. That is what really scares me.”

Read the full article: 70 years of Ted Turner

25 years moved so quickly; it seems like just 12

The Bangalore edition of The Times of India turns 25 years old today. But the joy of a great journey from being No.4 to No.1—from climbing from a circulation of 20,000 copies to “over 500,000,” in the words of resident editor H.S. Balram—is slightly marred by a photograph on the front page of the “special report” marking the occasion.

The picture, shot by T.L. Ramaswamy, captures Bangalore’s most famous thoroughfare, Mahatma Gandhi Road, then and now. Then being 1984. Among the hoardings dotting the buildings is a hoarding for the Korean company, Lucky Goldstar alias LG.

LG, for the record, was launched in India in 1997.

Photographs: courtesy The Times of India

Hat tip: Satish Patel