Monthly Archives: November 2011

An Emergency-style witchhunt of the media?

The top item (above) in the gossip column of The Indian Express today lends further credence to the conspiracy theory doing the rounds in Delhi that there may be a pattern to, and a devious intent behind, all that is happening to the media in recent weeks: the sweeping remarks of press council chairman Justice Markandey Katju, the notification of the Majithia wage board recommendations for journalists, the talk of regulation of the electronic media, the curbs on crossmedia ownership, etc.

And that in circa 2011—following the exposes of the gigantic scams and scandals that powered the anti-corruption movement—the Congress-led UPA government may have quietly ushered in a very sophisticated form of whiplashing and witchhunting the media, without the formal declaration of censorship as in 1975.

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

B.G. VERGHESE: The declaration of Emergency in 1975

KULDIP NAYAR: Hindu and HT were were worst offenders

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Journalist arrested in journalist’s murder case

Jigna Vora, the deputy bureau chief of The Asian Age, Bombay, who was arrested today in connection with the dastardly murder of Mid-Day journalist J. Dey.

Vora, who was formerly of Mumbai Mirror, has been charged under Section 120 (b) of the Indian penal code (conspiracy), read with 302 (murder) and Maharashtra control of organised crime Act (MCOCA).

The police say she passed on information such as email IDs, residential addresses, motorcycle number and J Dey’s movements to the organised crime syndicate, based on which the murder was orchestrated.

Photograph: courtesy Mid-Day

Also read: J. Dey: ‘When eages are silent, parrots jabber’

Then and Now: How TOI covered the Tata change

There is a change at the top of Bombay House, the headquarters of the Tatas, and the manner in which it is covered by Bombay’s biggest media house, The Times of India, is illustrative of how much journalism has changed, and how much the way journalists look at business news has changed, in the last 20 years.

On top is the ToI news item announcing the appointment of Ratan N. Tata as the chairman, 20 Octobers ago, succeeding J.R.D. Tata. Below is today’s ToI front page, announcing the appointment of Ratan Tata’s successor, Cyrus P. Mistry.

# Then, the news of the appointment was not the lead story, it was probably second lead on columns 6,7 and 8, continued on “turn page”. Now, the news of the appointment earns lead story status. Business news is no longer anathema.

# Then, when print was king and television was not commonplace, the news of the appointment was conveyed as is in the headline. Now, with television and internet having broken the news 12 hours earlier, the lead headline is a smart pun.

# Then, the front-page picture was larger than the two tiny mugshots now. Interestingly, the 1981 picture had both the outgoing chairman and incoming chairman in one frame. Not so in the tightly controlled media atmosphere of 2011.

# Then, bylines were mostly anonymous. “By Our City Editor” was shorthand for our business editor, probably the veteran D.G. Gupte. On today’s front page, there are at least three bylines: Reeba Zacharaiah, Boby Kurien, Namrata Singh.

# Then, it was just news of the change. Now, there is plenty of backgrounding (“Why Cyrus? How he swung the vote”, “The Mistry connection”) plus a colour piece on his hobbies (“Avid golfer & foodie, avoids cocktail circuit”). Bollywood also sneaks into today’s front page with the slug “Being Cyrus”.

# Then, it was all black white, now there is a profusion of colour, although much of the colour now appears in the typography in the info-box in the absence of a good picture. Then it was just one story, now it is four stories, an infobox, two quotes and five pointers.

The Times of India‘s blanket coverage is also interesting because the paper was blacklisted twice during the outgoing chairman Ratan Tata. Once in protest at ToI’s coverage of the Tata Finance scandal, and then against the backdrop of the Niira Radia tapes, which proved to be a public relations disaster for the group.

Images: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: Why Ratan Tata hired Niira Radia

Have the Tatas blacklisted Times of India again?

Everybody loves a nice mutual admiration club

Four lessons in journalism from Tata’s chief PRO

2011 Sanskriti Award for Tehelka’s Rana Ayyub

Rana Ayyub, a Bombay-based assistant editor with Tehelka magazine, is among the five recipients of this year’s Sanskriti Awards. The awards were presented in New Delhi on Friday, November 18.

In her seven-year career in journalism, Rana, 28, a postgraduate in social communications media, has reported from the naxal hotbeds and the warlands of the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

A press release says Rana has to her credit revelational exposes on rightwing fundamentalism and conflict and terror related reports in the country. “She considers her work on the arrest of innocent Dalit teenagers under terror acts in the naxal infested areas of Maharashtra as perhaps the most riveting and thought provoking pieces.”

Photograph: Rana Ayyub (fourth from right) at the presentation of the Sanskriti Awards, with former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (second from left) and other winners, in New Delhi on November 18, 2011

Also read: Aman Sethi bags Red Cross journalism prize

EPW journalist bags Appan Menon award

Rema Nagarajan of ToI bags Nieman fellowship

Mint‘s Monika Halan among Yale fellows

Chameli Devi prize for Tehelka scribe, K.K. Shahina

Pallava Bagla bags ‘Oscar’ of science journalism

Saikat Datta bags prize for using RTI for story

India-China friendship award for Pallavi Aiyar

Knight fellowship for Frontline’s Dionne Bunsha

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For the final anniversary of the year of India’s “Family No. 1”—the birth anniversary of the nation’s first woman prime minister Indira Gandhi—there are 70 advertisements amounting to 32 published pages in 12 English newspapers that have been surveyed through the year by sans serif.

With this anniversary, the total number of government ads to mark the three birth and three death anniversaries of the three former prime ministers from the family—Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi—in the year of the lord 2011 goes up to 393.

In effect, the government has bought space amounting to 190¼ pages in the 12 newspapers.

# The Times of India is the biggest beneficiary of the ad blitz to mark the six anniversaries among the general-interest newspapers with 65 published ads followed by Indian Express 62, Hindustan Times 57, The Hindu 42, The Pioneer 41, Mail Today 36, The Statesman 25 and The Telegraph 18 ads.

# The Economic Times and Business Standard top the list of the busines dailies with 14 ads each, followed by the Financial Express with 11 ads. Mint (from the Hindustan Times stable) has received just one ad for the six anniversaries.

# As a group, the Times group has received 79 ads in all, the Express group 73 ads, and the Hindustan Times 58 ads.

While it is natural that ToI and HT should garner so many ads given their large circulations in the national capital, the second place for the Express group is revealing considering it sells less than five per cent of market-leaders ToI and HT in the Delhi market, which both sell in excess of 5 lakh copies.

The tabloid Mail Today, which has the third highest circulation among the Delhi newspapers, too gets fewer ads than the Indian Express.

***

The affection of various Union ministries, departments and State governments for the three departed leaders of the family is revealing.

While Rajiv Gandhi tops the charts with 177 advertisements amounting to 89 pages for his birth and death anniversaries, Indira Gandhi comes second with 134 ads amounting to 64 pages, followed by Pandit Nehru at a lowly 82 ads amounting to 37¼ pages.

***

The breakup of the Indira Gandhi ads today are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 10 Indira ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 32-page issue; 11 ads amounting to 4¾ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 28-page issue; 14 ads amounting to 5¾ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 42-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 5½ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 20-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 3 broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 18-page issue; 6 ads amounting to 2¾ broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 26-page issue; 0 ads amounting to 0 broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 16-page main issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ broadsheet pages

Business Standard: 18-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ pages

Financial Express: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ pages

Mint (Berliner): 12-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Among the advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, culture, water resources, statistics and programme implementation, north eastern region, micro small and medium enterprises, social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, there are ads of the national commission for women.

***

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

HT springs to ToI’s support in Times Now case

Admittedly, the Justice P.B. Sawant libel case against Times Now is a grave one with serious implications for the media across the nation. Even so, it is worth asking if The Times of IndiaHindustan Times jugalbandi—most evident when the arch rivals joined hands to float a (now-defunct) tabloid to stymie the launch of Mail Today from the India Today group four years ago— is back in full flow?

Some fresh evidence of it is visible in today’s issues of the two papers. While ToI carries a long story on HT Media’s complaint against a music company over royalty, HT has returned the favour with an editorial page piece against a Pune court order directing Times Now to pay Rs 100 crore in damages to former Supreme Court judge Justice Sawant, for wrongly showing his photograph in a news story on corrupt judges three years ago.

The author of the HT piece is the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the noted Supreme Court advocate, Arun Jaitley, who writes:

“As someone having familiarity with the quantum of damages Indian courts award, this order appears to be somewhat unusual. Observers are still unable to come to terms with the quantum of damages awarded even in cases of death or disability caused by Union Carbide in the Bhopal gas tragedy.

“The quantum awarded in various death cases, be it an accident or otherwise, in India, is normally modest. The quantum awarded recently in the Uphaar fire tragedy is a case in point.

“If a former judge is entitled to R100 crore for his photograph being flashed erroneously on account of being mistaken with another phonetically similar name, will this precedent be applied by Indian courts to other ordinary mortals who complain of loss of reputation on account of far more serious allegations?

“I am not aware of a single case where even 1% of this amount has been awarded to an ordinary citizen or a public person for loss of reputation. There is no better way of shutting down Indian media than by awarding punitive damages against journalists, newspapers or TV channels that are completely disproportionate to the value of money in Indian society.

“Each media organisation is expected to exercise due care and caution. Errors, however, will take place on account of the very nature of the news circulation business. If channels or newspapers are to suffer such an order, on the assumption that R100 crore are to be the normal damages awarded to a citizen, we may in the next 10 years become a nation without media organisations.”

Read the full article: Control freakery

Also read: Editors’ Guild backs Times Now in libel case

Editors Guild backs ‘Times Now’ in libel case

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