Monthly Archives: June 2013

Subhash Chandra: 7 rules for media success

In the seventh anniversary issue of Outlook Business*, Zee TV bossman Subhash Chandra offers seven rules for success in the media:

1) Don’t take your position for granted: Even if you’ve been No.1 for a long while, always remember to guard your turf

2) Don’t ignore the rural market: Through its direct-to-home business, Zee reached out to a market that had no access to television

3) Look for opportunities in allied businesses: Over the years, along with television broadcasting, Zee has entered online lotteries, cricket, cable TV and DTH

4) Be ready to constantly improvise your convergence strategy: Over the years, Zee has stepped up the cable distribution game and it has paid off for the group

5) Ensure your programming is always cost-effective

6) Make sure one revenue stream is always robust: Steady growth in subscription revenue will reduce the dependence on advertising

7) There is always an opportunity in sports

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy Forbes

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Also read: Ramachandra Guha‘s 12 and a half steps for journalists

Vinod Mehta‘s seven rules for young journalists

V.S. Naipaul‘s seven rules for writers

Garrison Keillor‘s seven rules for reading the newspaper

William Safire‘s 18 steps to better writing

Prashant Panjiar‘s eight steps to better photography

Raghu Rai‘s five tips for photographers

Steve Forbes named in Forbes India legal notice

ig_dk_charles_shishir1

Top row: Indrajit Gupta (L), Dinesh Krishnan
Bottom row: Shishir Prasad (L), Charles Assisi

Three of the four Forbes India editors, who were forced out of the fortnightly business magazine allegedly for demanding that the promoters fulfill their contractual commitments on employee stock options (ESOPs), have shot off legal notices to Network 18 and Forbes Media, demanding immediate reinstatement and settlement of dues and damages for loss of livelihood, reputation and mental harassment.

Steve Forbes, the chairman and CEO of Forbes Media, and William Adamopoulos, CEO Asia of Forbes Media, have been named among the eight respondents, since Forbes India is a title licensed by the American parent organisation, Forbes.

The others named in the legal notice are Network 18 chief operating officer Ajay Chacko, editor-in-chief web and publishing R. Jagannathan, group HR director Shampa Kochhar, group general counsel Kshipra Jatana, and group CEO B. Sai Kumar.

Interestingly, neither Raghav Bahl, the controlling shareholder and managing director of Network 18, nor Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani, whose name was drawn into the controversy by the Bombay Press Club, have been named in the June 18 legal notice.

(Update: The managing director of Digital 18 Media is the chief recipient of the legal notice, which at this current time happens to be Raghav Bahl.)

The “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, the “resignation” of managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan, and executive editor Shishir Prasad, was slammed by the Editors Guild of India as a move that cuts at the “very root of editorial independence”.

While the first three have sent the legal notices, the fourth has chosen not to contest the case.

The notices are seen as the first step before a full-blown court case which would test human resource practices at one of India’s largest media organisations.

The silence of the Press Council of India, created to preserve the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country, has been defeaning, given the demonstrated propensity of its chairman Justice Markandey Katju to intervene in public debates.

Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

Bombay Press Club blasts Forbes India purge

Forbes purge is a freedom issue: Editors’ Guild

External reading: Forbes will stick to its DNA: R. Jagannathan

Is BBC playing around with Mandela’s stature?

As Nelson Mandela, the icon of South Africa, gasps for life in a Johannesburg hospital, M.S. Prabhakara, the veteran Hindu correspondent in Guwahati who served as the newspaper’s first correspondent  in South Africa, has a letter to the editor:

“It is disgusting, but not surprising, that the BBC in its online world news bulletin should consistently describe Nelson Mandela, lying critically ill in a Pretoria hospital, as “South Africa’s first black president” instead of more accurately, and more relevantly in political terms, as South Africa’s first democratically elected President. This link is the latest of such descriptions that has appeared since June 24.”

M.S. Prabhakara

Kolara

Also read: Why shouldn’t old men be mad at Bangalore?

India, Pakistan and the foreign correspondents

From Delhi Confidential, the gossip column in The Indian Express:

“There is never a dull moment in India-Pakistan relations. Just when it seemed that a positive environment was on the horizon, comes the news that there might not be any Indian journalist based in Pakistan after this month.

“The only two journalists that are allowed, from PTI [Rezaul Laskar] and The Hindu [Anita Joshua], have ended their tenure, but their successors have not been given visas by Islamabad till now.

“The delay in processing of visas of the Indian journalists, for posting in Islamabad, has given rise to speculation that the new Pakistan establishment under Nawaz Sharif might be hardening its stand towards New Delhi.”

Also read: How Pakistan helped The Hindu save $800

I couldn’t go to the US, and my name’s Zia Haq

How (free) India treats foreign correspondents

Dicky Rutnagur, an ekdum first-class dikra: RIP

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: After three days of parsimonious one-paragraph obituaries, the tributes have started coming in for Dicky Rutnagar, the Bombay-born cricket and squash correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, London, who passed away on Friday, 20 June 2013, at the age of 82.

Rutnagur, who covered 300 Test matches before he retired in 2005, belonged to the “old school” of cricket writers who believed in reporting what took place on the field.

Nicknamed “Kores” for the number of carbon copies he took of his reports to file for various newspapers Rutnagur’s favourite two words were “bloody” and “bastard”.

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In The Hindu, where Rutnagur’s pieces often appeared, the veteran cricket and music writer Raju Bharatan of the now-defunct The Illustrated Weekly of India, calls Rutnagar the Zubin Mehta of cricket writing.

“Dicky’s breakthrough in journalism came as the illustrious Hindustan Times editor, S. Mulgaonkar, handpicked him to report Test cricket, at home and abroad, replacing Berry Sarbadhikary….

“His roaming spirit made him the exemplary freelance. No one enlivened the pressbox more with his puckish presence. As one Palsule from a vernacular paper kept importuning Dicky for return of a sum, his response was vintage Rutnagur: “If you ask for your money one more time, I will never borrow from you again!”

In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Amit Roy writes of how Rutnagur made the jump to the British press.

“In 1966, Dicky arrived in England with an agreement to work every day during the summer covering county games for The Daily Telegraph and then disappear abroad for the winter for Test matches.”

As if to live to up to C.L.R. James‘ famous line “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know,” Rutnagur, like his compatriot K.N. Prabhu of The Times of India, had an ear for classical music.

“I would say that cricket has been almost – almost – all consuming. But I am very fond of classical music – and jazz. Mozart and Rachmaninov, Tsaichovsky, and latterly in the last few weeks I have been listening to a lot of Beethoven.”

Like a good Parsi, Rutnagur believed in telling it like it is, sans political correctness. He said cricket writing had come a long way: From Cardus to Kotnis.

In Mid-Day, the former Hindu cricket writer, R. Mohan, reminisced:

“Walking into the Indian dressing room with him on the morning of the first ever Test match in Ahmedabad, Dicky came up with the best joke on the Indian team I had heard in a long time.

“Looking at all the Sardars sitting around – Sidhu, Sandhu, Maninder, Gursharan – Dicky came up with – Sorry, I thought this was the Indian dressing room, not the Motibagh taxi stand.’”

Amit Roy writes that Rutnagur believed the authorities at Lord’s were right to apply a strict dress code – tie and jacket for men; no jeans or trainers; and for women, no cleavage on display.

“We” – meaning men – “take the trouble to dress properly,” he said. “The least women could do was adopt the same code.”

Rutnagur wrote two books, Test Commentary (India v England, 1976-77) and Khans Unlimited (a history of squash in Pakistan).

Photograph: courtesy Mid-Day

Read a Dicky Rutnagur report: Silencing the Calypso

Former TOI group vice-chairman no more

RCcooper

sans serif records the demise of Rustom Cowasjee Cooper, a former non-executive chairman of The Times of India group, in London on Tuesday, 18 June 2013. He was 91.

Mr Cooper, an accountant by training, won the bank nationalisation case in 1971 and was a general secretary of the Swatantra Party, C. Rajagopalachari‘s party that was opposed to Nehruvian socialism.

Hat tip: Law and other things

Also read: TOI reports first Indian sub’s death after 22 days

Poems on news anchors: this week, Barkha Dutt

In Open magazine this week, Madhavankutty Pillai continues his occasional series of poems on news anchors. This week, the face of NDTV 24×7: Barkha Dutt, the host of We the People and The Buck Stops Here.

Ye destitute widow, acid attack victim

Forgotten spy, despairing cripple

Who was once trapped in rubble

And ye burnt in a stock-market bubble

This comforting hand I lay on your shoulder

Time to the pan of the camera’s girdle

Give me your grief just for a moment

Let us spread it before We The People.

 

Some would say why I would say

Some would say for what I say

But know me You The People

Not by my late tribulations

But by my fine emulations

A career of honed expressions

My hysterics have drowned howitzers

My voice can be louder than bombs

I have a naughty glint to start

The motors of the Bollywood mouth

A furrowed brow for the minister

For every novelist two paras by heart.

 

I am the tallest poppy

Mistress of every beat

Battler of troll and twit

Editor, intellectual, analyst

Anchor, correspondent, critic

And and and and and

Some would say that’s a lot of me

But all ye upstarts

Why don’t you just let me be

Photograph: courtesy Verve

Also read: A poem for Karan Thapar

A poem for Sagarika Ghose

 

‘UFO’ sends South Indian papers into a tizzy

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PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Two south Indian newspapers, the Malayala Manorama (in picture, above) and the New Indian Express, have reported the sighting of an unidentified flying object (UFO) in Kannur district in Kerala.

According to Manorama, the picture was taken by Major Sebastian Zachariah, an Indian army officer serving on the UN mission in Congo, when he was testing his new mobile telephone.

UFO

The Express (above) followed suit, and quoted the major’s wife:

“My husband had a new mobile (HTC-1) and he was checking the features by clicking photos randomly. It was around 4.30-5 pm and suddenly he screamed saying that he got a UFO image. We couldn’t believe it first and thought he was playing a prank,” Divya who hails from Kannur said over phone.

“He did not see the UFO with his naked eye. We checked every frame carefully and only one had a flying saucer on it. We looked in the sky to spot something unusual. We came back home and did a thorough search on the internet and even scanned the NASA website.”

Thankfully, Express also quoted Professor Jayant Murthy of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore, who rejected the claims.

“Due to reflections of some optics there could have been illusions. People sometimes experience camera illusions and they are not UFOs. These are nothing real.”

The wellknown rationalist, Sanal Edamaruku, wrote on his Facebook page:

“UFO attacks can be “recorded” with new HTC-1 mobile phone App. UFO-logists have enough stuff for some time.”

Edamaruku also suggested a You Tube link to show how it is done:

However, one blogger put the whole thing in perspective:

“HTC–1 is a powerful phone with a very powerful camera. HTC -1 produces perfect images with one-press continuous shooting, VideoPic, and a camera that captures 300% more light. It has a very powerful Ultra Pixel camera supporting continuous shooting. It looks like the picture got captured only because of this powerful camera. Hence we cannot rule out the possibility that this a genuine UFO phenomenon caught on film due to a very powerful, advanced camera phone.”

Also read: How a giant pig fooled the American media

How a newspaper’s prank exposed websites

How Indian TV slayed a dangerous superstition

The only place black magic works is in your mind

An open letter to media from Koodankulam

The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), based in Idinthakarai in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, has shot off an open letter to the Indian media on its collective silence on the imminent commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear plant.

Below is the text of the press release.

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Dear friends

Greetings!

Please allow us to bring the following to your kind attention in the larger interests of our country, people and most importantly, our democracy and freedom.

As the Fourth Pillar of our democracy, the media in India plays an important role in the smooth running of our country and the perpetuation of our democratic heritage.

We are sure that you have noticed the postponement of the commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP) to July 2013 without giving any reasons or explanations.

It is really so disappointing and upsetting why no print or visual media in our country asks the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) or its Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) about this.

There has not been one single editorial in any Indian newspaper or an informed debate on any TV debate on the repeated postponement of the KKNPP commission since 2005.

Don’t the people of India need to know the reasons behind this constant postponement and continued ducking and dodging by the prime minister, central ministers, chief minister, and nuclear officials?

We have been crying from the roof top that there has been massive corruption in the KKNPP and shoddy, substandard components and spares have been used in the project, but no mediahouse in India has shown any interest to probe this issue further.

Most of the northern Indian mediahouses have not even shown any interest in the Koodankulam issue as if we were not part of India.

Although we cannot complain about the media coverage of our various struggles and campaigns here in Tamil Nadu both in the Tamil and the English media, a few irresponsible mediahouses have been portraying a very negative picture of our movement because of their connection with the nuclear industry, or their “higher caste” bias, or for cheap monetary gains.

They go for sensationalism, profiteering, and unprincipled and unprofessional reporting.

We would also like to point out that there have been good reports and analysis about the KKNPP issue but there is hardly any incisive inquiry into the commissions and omissions of the Indian nuclear industry in the larger media. Also many mediahouses in India tend to fall silent when power centers frown at them, or twist their arms.

As a result of the gross failure of the Fourth Pillar in our democracy, criminals wander about as leaders; ‘Merchants of Venice’ dominate the economic affairs; and all-knowing-scientists and engineers adopt an anti-people attitude in their mega-development projects.

Consequently, there is rampant corruption, inefficiency, wastefulness, depression, inflation, regress, and overall moral decay all over the country.

Hence it is high time we undertook a thorough and comprehensive soul-search about the duties and responsibilities of the media in India. The Koodankulam struggle can be a cornerstone for undertaking this analysis.

We would earnestly request you to do a review of your own mediahouse’s policies and practices and see if you feel and write for the “ordinary citizens” of India or for the vested interests of our country and the world….

If the Indian mediahouses fail to do this, all the neo-East India companies from the United States, Russia, France and everywhere else will come to dominate our socioeconomic-political affairs and enslave us all over again.

Looking forward to your careful consideration of our letter and favorable actions, we send you our best personal regards and all peaceful wishes,

Cordially

S. P. Udayakumar (coordinator), M. Pushparayan, F. Jayakumar, M. P. Jesuraj, R. S. Muhilan, Peter Milton, V. Rajalingam, Ms. S. Lidwin

Photograph: courtesy Dia Nuke

Also read: Tamil newspaper prints phone numbers of nuclear protestors

When ‘Indian Express’ gave ‘The Hindu’ a story

N. Ram (left) with Shekhar Gupta at a meeting in 2011 with Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (right)

In October 1989, when The Hindu‘s then associate editor, N. Ram, was stopped in his tracks by his uncle and editor, G. Kasturi, from publishing the third part of an investigation into the Bofors gun deal, Ram found a novel method of getting the story out.

He called a press conference and handed out the story—done in collaboration with the paper’s Geneva correspondent Chitra Subramaniam—to any newspaper interested in carrying it.

In much the same manner, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta has revealed how, in 2006, he found a way of getting out a story related to the elevation of a Delhi high court to the Punjab and Haryana high court, by giving the third part of the story to The Hindu.

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In a Walk the Talk interview with Gupta on NDTV 24×7 last week, the serial letter-writer Subhash Agarwal revealed how a family dispute led to his becoming a right to information (RTI) activist.

Agarwal’s uncle, Hari Ram, had filed a case against his father in 1991.

Hari Ram’s son-in-law was, at the time, a judge in the Delhi High Court (Justice Arun Kumar). The case was heard by Justice Vijendra Jain. The two judges knew each other well enough for Justice Jain to lend his official residence to be used by the petitioner Hari Ram, for his grand-daughter’s wedding.

This was in violation of one of the elements of the Code of Conduct or “Restatement of Judicial Values”, adopted by the Full court in 1997 which said no judge shall hear and decide a case of his relative or friend.

The wedding invitation card, with the judge’s residence printed on it, became the evidence for Subash Agarwal to approach both the Supreme Court and the President of India in 2005.  The chief information commissioner’s verdict showed the power of RTI.

Justice Vijendra Jain was later made chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court, but his elevation to the Supreme Court as a judge was stalled, despite the then chief justice Y.K. Sabharwal reportedly overruling the recommendation of the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Shekhar Gupta: So you discovered then the power of RTI which nobody had figured until then?

Subash Agarwal: Yes. The media made me strong. The media highlighted the CIC verdict and that shook the whole of the judiciary.

What happened to these judges then?

After the CIC verdict was published in the media, there was pressure on my uncle from his son-in-law and his associates in the higher judiciary, which also included the Chief Justice of India. And then he had to compromise though we had to pay a price much higher than the value of (the disputed) property at that time.

But the fact also is that one particular judge who later rose to be Chief Justice in a High Court could not ultimately come to the Supreme Court because of your activism.

Right. Mr Kalam held the file of promotion of that judge for elevation to the Supreme Court.

Even though the Chief Justice nearly overruled [the then President], Dr A.P.J. Kalam.

Yes.

You remember that The Indian Express was in the forefront of following that story from Rashtrapati Bhavan. It’s a story I cannot yet tell on camera but we paid gravely for that, but we were willing to pay.

Yes. Your paper has always been the pioneer in highlighting such malpractices.

I made this disclosure public that our third story on that issue, I had to then, with great respect and understanding, give to The Hindu, to Mr N Ram, who played a great editor and published it instead because circumstances were such that the Express could not have carried it…So, this was the first time that an RTI activist actually prevented a judge who had risen to the level of High Court Chief Justice from coming to the Supreme Court.

He had almost reached the Supreme Court.

Coincidentally, in November 2006, the Indian Express‘ new editorial headquarters in the Qutub institutional area was “sealed”  following a Supreme Court judgement.

Ironically, in 2011, The Indian Express and The Hindu were involved in a noisy battle, after N. Ram threatened “defamation proceedings” against the Express for reporting on the internecine war within the Hindu family.

Photograph: courtesy in.com

Read the full interview: Jan Andolan activism has failed’

Also read: Letter-writer secures win against top judge