Monthly Archives: July 2010

In the dosa joint where ‘our beloved father’ ate

New Delhi’s most famous media canteen—the one at the news agency United News of India (UNI)—finally steps out of the margins into the gossip columns.

Facsimile: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: Why the Indian media doesn’t take on Ambanis

Sorry brother, we got a few million dollars wrong

How media hyped up the Reliance Power IPO

Anil sues Mukesh Ambani for New York Times profile

How serious is the trouble at CNBC & CNN-IBN?

Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 group has restructured its business plan. Again.

All the loss-making broadcast businesses—CNBC TV18, CNN-IBN, IBN7, etc—are under one roof, and the digital and publishing initiatives—, Infomedia, etc—under another.

Debashis Basu writes in the personal finance magazine Moneylife that this is an old trick aimed at buying time and raising money by spinning a new story:

“The problem starts with the fact that 40% of TV18’s business is broadcasting that helps pull in revenues for other businesses. And there, revenues show not traction.

“Revenues were actually down in the March quarter even over the terrible quarter that was March 2009, despite the fact that this year’s March quarter revenues should have been buoyed by the big event of the Union Budget.

“The silver lining is that one part of IBN18’s business-entertainment channel Colors, is making money. But other broadcasting businesses of IBN18 (CNN-IBN, IBN Lokmat and IBN7) are in deep losses again and have no real growth traction.

“Competition is intense because others can also play the same game as Network18 can.

“Their operational costs are high too, mainly because salaries are exorbitant, relative to quality and quantity of output. Most importantly, these news operations have no real edge; they are indistinguishable from the others. The 50% profit from Colors will be eaten up by losses from the news channels.”

MoneyLife‘s continuing series of stories on the state of the TV players is indicative of the code of omerta that seems to be in play in the Indian media on matters affecting the Indian media. Although TV18 is a listed entity, which means ordinary citizens have their money invested in it, other media houses do not devote the same space on the financials.

Read the full article: Restructuring won’t mend cracks

Also read: The endgame is near for TV18 and NDTV

The barbs that resulted in a Rs 500 crore lawsuit

Is this man the new media mogul of India?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gets gag order on Agni, TV9

The following is the full text of the press release issued by “India’s future Nobel laureate“, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar‘s art of living (AoL) foundation on an injunction order obtained by it against sections of the media in Bangalore following the recent spurt of news:

“On behalf of Vyakti Vikas Kendra (VVKI), India, and the Art of Living foundation, we  would like to inform all  concerned that considering our case and request, the court of honourable 22nd additional district and sessions judge, Bangalore City, was pleased to grant an ad-interim prohibitory injunction in original suit no. 4583/2010 instituted on our behalf by virtue of which prohibiting the defendants Shridhar alias Agni Shridhar, M.S. Ravindra, Sayyed Aman alias Bachan, Rajshekar Hathgundhi, Manjunath Adde alias Adde of Agni tabloid, M. Krishnappa, Paul Fernandes, Shankar alias Mavalli Shankar of Karnataka dalit sangharsha samiti and M/s TV9 Karnataka and News-9 satellite television channels from indulging in any nature of writing, publishing in press media,  audio visual media or in any form any derogatory or defamatory material , article, speech against the Art of Living foundation or VVKI and its founder, his holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, till further order . The case next stands posted on 9th Aug 2010.”

Also read: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar threatens to sue tabloid

Daily exercise improves newspaper circulation

Indian publications are full of facts; the fiction is in their circulation figures.

Cooked up with great expertise, garnished liberally with an extra zero, certified by audit agencies which will consume any shit, and then lovingly dished out to agencies and advertisers, the number of actual copies sold is a joke.

Especially with complimentary copies, subsidised subscription copies, school editions, etc, all adding to a smorgasbord already laden by price-cutting, dumping and other predatory tactics.

Mail Today, the daily tabloid newspaper from the India Today group, is trying a new trick to show that it is doing well against the market leaders in Delhi. On page one each day, below the masthead, the paper prints “today’s circulation”.

These are the numbers from the first week of July2 2010, showing a marginal dip on Sunday:

7 July: 155,575 copies

6 July: 152,876 copies

5 July: 152,905 copies

4 July: 149,925 copies

3 July: 152,970 copies

2 July: 152,845 copies

1 July: 153,555 copies

Who this is intended at and how it will help, knows God, but in an industry that revels in opacity, Mail Today‘s stab at transparency is a welcome one, if only….

Also read: Newspaper cartoon that’s railing the Israelis

Newspaper cartoon that offending the Aussies

Gandhi for the goose ain’t Gandhi for the gander?

Mail Today names India’s second richest woman

‘News is the subtlest form of advertising’

M.J. Akbar in Deccan Herald:

“News is the subtlest form of advertising. Perhaps we should be generous to journalism and qualify that: news can become the most subtle form of advertising, particularly when it comes dressed in quotation marks….

“We customers of democracy buy words without enquiry about their value. This encourages those in power to embroider words with whatever we will be fooled by: sometimes pepper to enhance the taste, sometimes frippery to brighten the look, sometimes nothing more substantial than packaging.

“When you reach home, tear up the glittering paper, and open the box you find lots of straw under which is hidden a shrivelled raw mango instead of the array of Alfonsos you were promised in the marketplace of politics. Since there is no one else to blame for the transaction, you make pickle out of that mango and console yourself with the illusion that it is sustenance.”

Read the full columnWagon of words

Also read: Will M.J. Akbar recreate The Telegraph magic?

‘In fractured media, the word is the common fact’

M.J. Akbar charges Manmohan Singh of sabotage

‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

If TV cameras are OK, why not still cameras?

The courts do not allow photographers to shoot pictures inside a courtroom, although they will allow illustrators to get away drawing courtroom scenes which have almost no likeness with reality.

Ditto, the legislature.

This, above, is a scene from the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore where a joint session of the State legislature is on. Photographers are not allowed in although television videographers are. Therefore lensmen like T.A. Hafeez, former chief photographer of The Hindu, have to make do with whatever support they can get.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

First lessons from the flirtatious hotshot editor

Penguin Canada bossman David Davidar‘s hurriedly buried “consensual flirtatious” relationship with a colleague that resulted in his being sacked from the publishing house has prompted Priya Ramani, editor of Lounge, the Saturday section of Mint, to make public her own tryst with a “hotshot editor”:

“I’ll never forget my first job interview.

“The hotshot editor whose work I had worshipped growing up said he would meet me at his hotel at 7pm. When I got to the hotel, I called him on the house phone and he said, come on up.

“I shuffled around nervously for a couple of minutes in the lobby, torn between the eagerness of a 23-year-old to meet one of her journalism heroes and the thought that it was perhaps best to walk away from the job. He interviewed me over drinks besides the bed in his tiny room that was made up for the night.

“He was charming, he flirted, and I pretended not to recognize the signals. Eventually, I escaped unscathed. It was my first lesson on surviving the workplace.”

Read the full article: When boss is a consensual flirt

Also read: WSJ editor denies minister’s SMS

‘Editor the Great’

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar threatens to sue tabloid

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: A full-fledged war has broken out between “India’s future Nobel laureate“, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and underworld don-turned-journalist-turned-film maker, ‘Agni Sridhar, with the godman’s Art of Living foundation threatening a preemptive Rs 50 crore defamation suit against the latter.

The suit just comes four days after AoL claimed it was receiving extortion calls from a telephone number belonging to Sridhar, the man behind the eponymous weekly Kannada tabloid, Agni, and is clearly aimed at stemming the flow of negative news that has bedevilled “Mr Shankar” in the last month.

Last Tuesday, June 29, Ravi Shankar’s AoL filed a complaint before Bangalore police saying they had been receiving SMSes and calls from the mobile phone belonging to the journalist demanding Rs 42 crore (one million dollars).

Agni Sridhar was not named in the complaint.

An AoL  spokesman told reporters Agni Sridhar had visited the ashram to initiate “joint social development projects” with organisations associated with him, but when ashram representatives visited him, he changed tack. It is alleged he said he had some compact discs (CDs) to malign the ashram.

(Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has since claimed in an interview with the Bombay tabloid Mid-Day that “someone” was blackmailing him with a fabricated video.)

The following day, Agni Sridhar called a press conference to clear his name since his phone number had been mentioned, stating that he was only interceding on behalf of Paul Fernandez, a non-resident Indian whose 15-acre plot of land had been allegedly grabbed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ashram, a charge denied by the ashram.

Now, AoL has followed up its police complaint with a legal notice to Agni Sridhar, demanding an unconditional apology for all the defamatory articles published by the weekly over a seven-year period. That’s Kannada reports that Sridhar has confirmed receiving such a notice.

Curiously, the notice has been sent by advocate S. Dore Raju, a former state public prosecutor seen to be close to the ruling BJP government in Karnataka if not the sangh parivar itself.

The police complaint and the legal notice cap a month of negative publicity for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who earlier last month complained of being the target of an “assassination attempt” only to find Bangalore police assert that it was just a neighbour shooing off wild dogs.

The sudden spurt of incidents involving Sri Sri ravi Shankar also throws light on a possible war between godmen in Bangalore.

In a separate interview, Agni Sridhar had alleged that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was behind the Nithyananda video as he was wary of the latter’s growing popularity. Nithyananda who was caught on film with a Tamil film actress was released from custody recently.

Sridhar, a “reformed” underworld figure, has more recently branched out into making movies. He scripted the critically acclaimed Aa Dinagalu (Those were the days) on his stint in the margins, with the Jnanpith Award winning writer Girish Karnad. Two other films Slum Bala and Tamassu have since come from his stable.

Photographs: courtesy Enemiga Publica and Belli Tere

Also read: When a newspaper recites the Gita to a godman

‘Middle-class media doesn’t speak for poor’

P. Sainath, the Magsaysay Award-winning rural affairs editor of The Hindu, says the media did a poor job of explaining the impact of the recent fuel price hike on the poor while it expended time and space on the suicide of supermodel Viveka Babajee.

Delivering the silver jubilee lecture on “Mass Media: But where are the Masses?” at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Sainath says:

“In the last 15 years, everything that has become a convenience to the upper middle-class has become cheaper. You take air tickets, computers, cars etc…they are all affordable for us. But in this same period rice, wheat, electricity, water, etc. has become 300-500 per cent more expensive for the poor. Why is this not reflected in the media?

“Today newspapers have no labour correspondent, housing or primary education correspondent. We are explicitly telling 70 per cent of this country that they don’t matter to us”

Read the full story: ‘Media has lost its sense of priorties’

Also read: ‘Is media in denial on Indian recession?’

‘80% of Indian journalism is stenography’

‘Indian media doesn’t cover 70% of population’