Tata Steel, the flagship company of corporate behemoth Tata Sons, is going in for a follow-on public offer (FPO).
This display advertisement appeared in the Delhi editions of the Hindustan Times and Mint, Indian Express and Financial Express, The Hindu and Business Standard, on Friday, 14 January 2011, but not in the Delhi editions of India’s largest English newspaper The Times of India, or India’s largest business newspaper, The Economic Times.
The Friday ad was also published by the Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle, the Calcutta-based The Telegraph and the Bombay-based Mid-Day but Times group publications in those cities were conspicuous by their absence.
ToI and ET also didn’t get the issue ads that are rquired to be mandatorily published ahead of an IPO or FPO.
The Delhi-based Pioneer and the Mail Today newspaper of the India Today group too didn’t figure in Tata Steel’s FPO media plans. The Pioneer led the field in the exposure of the 2G spectrum allocation scam and Mail Today was alone among the newspapers in covering the Niira Radia tapes which showed the Tata group in poor light.
The tapes also showed that Radia was in conversation with almost everybody in the ET hierarchy.
Last week, Mint, the business paper owned by the Hindustan Times group, had outed an internal Tata Group communique, dated December 24, that had specifically instructed Tata group companies to “avoid participating” in news stories in Pioneer, ToI, India Today, Outlook* and Open magazines, which exposed the tapes.
The Mint story quoted Christabelle Noronha, chief (group corporate affairs) at Tata Sons, that there had been an instruction to group companies to not participate in news stories being done by the “offending publications and channels”.
It also quoted BCCL (Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd) chief marketing officer Rahul Kansal, who said: “In our (company’s) context, internally there have been rumours about the Tata group banning us. But it would be unfair to say I know for sure.”
But it appears the Tata blacklist goes beyond news stories and well into advertising.
Or does it?
The Tatas had blacklisted the “response-driven” Times group from advertising in the early 2000s, offended by its coverage of the Tata Finance controversy. The Tatas returned to India’s largest newspaper group at the time of the Tata
Communciation Consultancy Services (TCS) initial public offering (IPO).
In the wake of the Niira Radia controversy, Tatasons chairman Ratan Tata had voiced fears of India becoming a “banana republic” in an interview with Shekhar Gupta, the editor-in-chief of The Indian Express and The Financial Express for his NDTV program, Walk the Talk.
* Disclosures apply