Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Ambani brothers, TOI, Medianet & paid news

The “reverse-swing” done on Zee News by Jindal Steel is one of the most intriguing media stories in recent memory.

The steel company says it is suing the Subhash Chandra-owned network for Rs 200 crore for the demand of Rs 100 crore in lieu of advertisements allegedly made by its editors, Sudhir Chaudhary and Sameer Ahluwalia, to not telecast shows in relation to the coal allocation scandal.

In turn, Zee says it will sue Jindal Steel for Rs 150 crore for defaming the network by holding a press conference, releasing a CD containing video evidence of the reverse-sting, and making allegations of extortion against it and its editorial staff.

Meanwhile, The Times of India group, whose business paper The Economic Times and its advertorial supplements like Bombay Times and Delhi Times, were happily mentioned in passing by Chaudhary and Ahluwalia as indulging in “paid news” in the Jindal “reverse-sting” says Zee will hear from them.

Not surprisingly, Times CEO Ravi Dhariwal was on the mat at a CII event on Monday, with Amit Khanna of Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Entertainment saying his company had been asked to approach Medianet by TOI for coverage of an film festival.

The last bit of news, published in the gossip column of the Indian Express on Tuesday, has been happily reproduced by First Post, whose parent organisation TV 18 is now part of the Mukesh Ambani group, as evidence of the “media-corporate war”.

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

How did Robert Vadra vanish off the front pages?

A week is a long time for the media in Scamistan. The ripples caused by Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law Robert Vadra‘s real-estate dealings have given way to the hera-pheri of BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s.

The veteran editor and columnist Virendra Kapoor writes in The Sunday Guardian:

You can be forgiven if you believe that Nitin Gadkari‘s is the only scam in town. Saturation coverage by television channels in the past couple of days should have ordinarily left no one in doubt that he is at the centre of the biggest scam of our times.

Even newspapers which have virtually become an extension of the ruling establishment seemed to have suddenly discovered merit in Gadkari’s financial shenanigans, splashing as front-page lead the alleged wrongdoing by his companies while being completely oblivious to the humongous misdeeds of the leading lights of UPA.

Admittedly, it is hard to take on the incumbent powers. Editors simultaneously charged with the responsibility of keeping a close watch on the bottom-line, theirs and the paper’s, have to necessarily suck up to the corporate and political bosses — never mind the pretence in social and professional gatherings. But what of the cash-rich media houses straddling huge print and television empires?

Apparently, a strong word was conveyed that they should leave Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law well alone. Ministers, including I&B boss Ambika Soni, are said to have reached out to the media houses, gently suggesting that further interest in the doings of Robert Vadra and his multifarious business activities would be most unwelcome.

Now, when you treat journalism at par with selling soap cakes it is not hard to fall in line with the political establishment, is it?

So, the switch, instead, to Nitin Gadkari’s private companies.

Read the full column: Hammer Gadkari to save Vadra and other scamsters

Top reporter quits plum job after 75 years

Exactly a week after Newsweek decided to shut shop and on the eve of the reverse-sting that caught Zee News with its pants down, Clark Kent has walked off his job at The Daily Planet as the world’s longest serving reporter, bemoaning the state of journalism.

He would have completed 75 years of service next year.

“Why am I the one sounding like a grizzled ink-stained wretch who believes news should be about – I don’t know – news?” Mr Kent asked his publisher Perry White in a widely reported sting operation.

This is not the first time the temperamental reporter, who has often shown a penchant for wearing his underwear outside, has left the paper. When Galaxy Broadcasting bought The Daily Planet in 1971, Mr Kent had a short spell as a broadcaster before returning to the paper.

Mr Kent declined to answer queries but a spokesman for his PR company said:

“This is really what happens when a 27-year-old guy is behind a desk and he has to take instruction from a larger conglomerate with concerns that aren’t really his own… He is arguably the most powerful person on the planet, but how long can he sit at his desk with someone breathing down his neck and treating him like the least important person in the world?”

There are no indications what the ageing reporter, who has been secretive of his family, plans to do next, but online speculation suggested he might opt for a career, well, online.

“I don’t think he’s going to be filling out an application anywhere,” his PR man said.”He is more likely to start the next Huffington Post or the next Drudge Report than he is to go find someone else to get assignments or draw a paycheck from.”

A spoof animation video from Taiwan, which imagines Mr Kent behind a McDonald’s counter, invited suggestions what other career options existed before him.

Also read: All fun and no work makes Tintin a good boy

If Steven Spielberg has a problem in casting Tintin…

Billions of blue blistering barnacles!!!

Tintin publisher Leblanc passes away

Forget Ram Rajya, there is a new Ravana in town

On the last day of Dasara, Vijayadashmi—the day Lord Rama is rumoured to have defeated the demon-king Ravana, in newspaper parlance—The Times of India‘s chief illustrator Neelabh Banerjee presents a new ten-headed monster–from corrupt cops to cricket officials to doctors to businessmen to bureaucrats to politicians—to slay (Click to view a larger image).

Also read: The newspaper cartoon that offended Christians

Why ToI right to use The Last Supper image?

The Mail Today cartoon that’s offending Israelis

The Mail Today cartoon that’s offending Aussies

Zee News, Jindal Steel & silence of the media

Swapan Dasgupta on the silence of much of the media on the Zee News-Jindal Steel extortion case, in which the editorial staff of the Subhash Chandra-owned channel allegedly demanded Rs 100 crore in lieu of advertisements from the steel major to not publish stories in the coal scam, in The Pioneer, Delhi:

“The media didn’t react to the JSPL sting with the same measure of breathless excitement that greets every political corruption scandal because it is aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg. A thorough exploration of the media will unearth not merely sharp business practices but even horrifying criminality….

“Since the Press Council of India chairman Justice (retired) Markandey Katju is desperate to make a mark, he would do well to suo moto establish a working group to inquire into journalistic ethics. He could travel to a small State in western India where there persistent rumours that those who claim to be high-minded crusaders arm-twisted a Chief Minister into bankrolling an event as the quid pro quo for not publishing an investigation into some dirty practices.

“The emphasis these days is on non-publishing. One editor, for example, specialised in the art of actually commissioning stories, treating it in the proper journalistic way and even creating a dummy page. This dummy page would be sent to the victim along with a verbal ‘demand notice’. Most of them paid up. This may be a reason why this gentleman’s unpublished works are thought to be more significant than the few scribbles that reached the readers and for which he received lots of awards.”

Sudhir Chaudhary, Zee’s business head, has been removed as a member and office-bearer of the broadcast editors’ assocition (BEA) following the incident, of which Jindal Steel claims it has audio and video evidence.

Subhash Chandra too is named in the Jindal FIR along with his son Punit Goenka, and a Zee staffer Samir Ahluwalia.

Read the full column: Media, turn the mirror inwards

Read Sudhir Chaudhary response: Dear Shazi

Also read: Rs 50 crore? Rs 100 crore? It’s all in the business