Tag Archives: Private Treaties

If The Economist looks at Tamil Nadu, it’s news?

economist

In a bleak advertising scenario, Indian magazines have been pushed into running cheap and ugly advertisements, advertorials, and other intrusions dressed up as thinly disguised “innovations”, like a bit of editorial here for an ad elsewhere, to keep the ship afloat.

But The Economist, too?

The latest issue of the “newspaper” (as the magazine calls itself) has eight pages of a Tamil Nadu government ad heralding the achievements of two years of chief minister Jayalalitha‘s rule.

And, presto, there is a one-and-a-half page story on Tamil Nadu preceding it.

Headlined “A successful show begins to pall“, the Economist calls the state “one of India’s great success stories”, a “consistent economic performer” and “one of India’s most prosperous states”. An accompanying box titled “Lights, camera, election” dwells on why so many Tamil politicians are former film stars.

All very valid observations, no doubt, but all very old hat (the Economist was first published in September 1843).

Thankfully, the piece has enough caveats to blunt any accusations of doing what the adperson ordered.

It calls Jayalalitha a “Brahmin starlet turned autocrat” who has faced several corruption charges; it labels her co-star Cho Ramaswamy as one who “both seduced and murdered her on stage”; it talks of the endemic graft and Jayalalitha’s penchant for filing defamation cases against her critics.

Still, you are left wondering: would the Economist have suddenly looked at Tamil Nadu’s miracles if it weren’t for the ad?

Conversely, was The Economist correspondent doing a critical journalistic piece and the Tamil Nadu information and public relations directorate heard of it and decided to push in an ad (which was published in all newspapers on May 16)?

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New Yorker carries TOI response, 7 months later

Exactly seven months after The New Yorker carried a nine-page profile of Samir Jain, Vineet Jain and The Times of India by its acclaimed media critic Ken Auletta, the magazine has carried a response from TOI’s executive editor, Arindam Sen Gupta, in its May 5 issue, on medianet, private treaties and other subsidiary issues.

Image: courtesy The New Yorker

Also read: Samir Jain, Vineet Jain & TOI in New Yorker

The Times of India and the Commonwealth Games

How The Times of India pumped up Anna Hazare

A town shuts down to protest media corruption!

Unbelievable as it may sound, residents of the town of Mudhol in North Karnataka observed a bandh (shutdown) on Tuesday, September 20, to protest “blackmail journalism” and the growing number of imposters masquerading as journalists to extort money.

According to a report in the Kannada daily Praja Vani, the bandh in the town of 100,000 residents was a “complete success”.

Shops and business establishments downed their shutters for a few hours, and vehicles were off the roads.

The protestors included politicians, farmers, even journalists, and a host of other organisations. They marched to the tahsildar‘s office and presented a memorandum.

One protestor slammed weekly newspapers for bringing a bad name to the entire profession, and another targetted the misuse of the right to information (RTI) Act to ferret out information that was later used for extortion.

Mudhol town is famous for its country-bred hounds used for hunting.

Link via Sampadakeeya

Also read: Should media corruption come under Lokpal?

Bangalore journos, papers in mining scam report

‘Editors are lobbying on behalf of corporations’

Bangalore journos named in site allotment scam

Only in India: 90% off for journalists!

Cash transfer scheme is already here for journalists

Media houses are sitting on plots leased at one rupee!

Anti-corruption campaigner’s “error of judgement”

The WikiLeak cable on the journalist who…

‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

Should ‘media corruption’ come under Lokpal?

The more-than-just-a-neutral-observer position taken by sections of the media on the Anna Hazare agitation has clearly begun to rile politicians, and at least two of them cutting across party lines have argued in the last couple of days that the media too must be brought under the purview of the proposed anti-corruption legislation.

Exhibit A: Union minister for law and social justice, Salman Khurshid.

According to a report in The Hindu, Khurshid asked Headlines Today executive editor Rahul Kanwal as to why media corruption should not be investigated under the Team Anna version of the Lokpal bill.

“Do I need to go back to the Niira Radia tapes? Now you are asking why the government has not investigated. If we go ahead with the investigation, we would be accused of being insensitive. If we do, there would be a mass moment for the media.”

Exhibit B: Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Again, according to a report in The Hindu, Mulayam’s demand that the media also be brought under the Lokpal was met with thumping of desks by his colleagues.

“We [Samajwadi Party] suffered in the hands of media [during the polls],” he said during a debate on corruption. Even as a section of the treasury and opposition benche demanding that “media corruption” be also inquired into by Lokpal, Mulayam went on to state that it had become a practice for electronic channels to collect money during polls and air views in support of one party.

Also read: POLL: How has the media covered Anna movement?

Photograph: Television reporters deliver their piece to camera at the Ramlila grounds in New Delhi, against the backdrop of the stage on which Anna Hazare is fasting for the Lokpal bill

Why is Rupert Murdoch taking on Samir Jain?

New Delhi’s media circles have agog all this week with news of a “sting” operation on The Times of India by The Sunday Times of London.

The question: why would Rupert Murdoch‘s paper take on Samir Jain‘s, especially when it is not revealing anything particularly new?

Is something afoot between the media giants?

Has a deal gone sour?

Have the first shots been fired in a war between News Corp and Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd?

The Sunday Times article has, however, been unavailable to readers because of paper’s paywall and because newspapers which subscribe to The Sunday Times syndication service have refrained from running it.

Below is the full text of the article, carried without the permission of the publishers. And in the dock is not just ToI but Hindi heavyweights like Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran and Aaj, the first two of whom are listed on the stock exchanges.

***

India’s media demand cash to run favourable news

By Nicola Smith/ Delhi

The Indian government has condemned a rise in so-called “paid news”, in which newspapers and television channels accept money to run favourable articles about politicians, companies and celebrities.

The move by Ambika Soni, the broadcasting minister, follows a damaging report commissioned by the Press Council of India, which revealed that the practise of playing for positive coverage in the Indian media was widespread.

Soni, who proposed a new body to regulate broadcasting, said the phenomenon was undermining the credibility of new reports. “The paid news issue does not crop up during the elections but at other times as well,” she said.

The Press Council report criticised newspapers and broadcasters that demand money from politicians to run sympathetic stories about them. It said some papers misrepresent paid-for advertising as news and enter “private treaties” with companies that guarantee favourable coverage in exchange for free shares.

The report quoted a long list of politicians who disclosed that newspaper had asked them to pay large sums to write about their campaigns during state elections in 2009.

Harmohan Dhawan, a former aviation minister, was told that if he wanted coverage, he would have to pay two local newspapers, Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar, up to one million rupees (£13,600) each.

“Representatives of the print medium came to me and asked for money. They said their newspapers (would) give coverage if I paid them money. They offered a ‘package’ to me and in one such package I was told editorials would be written in my favour,” he said.

The story was echoed by Santosh Singh, a candidate for the ruling Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, who said he had been offered packages costing up to one million rupees by the Dainik Jagran and Aaj newspapers.

“The representatives of these newspapers who me said they were merely following orders given to them by their managements,” he said.

The Press Council report also highlighted the role of Medianet, a company created Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, which publishes The Times of India, The Economic Times and a range of other leading titles.

Medianet, for a price, openly offers to send journalists to cover launches or personality-related events, or arranges “news stories” based on a particular product to appear in the newspaper supplements.

A Sunday Times reporter telephoned Medianet last week posing as the public relations agent of a company wanting coverage for a party at Emporio, an exclusive shopping mall in Delhi.

Chandru Sambasivan, the head of Medianet’s Delhi office, said space could be bought in the Delhi Times supplement, the Times‘ society pages, for £27 a centimetre on the front page, of £16 inside.

He said it could “definitely” be dressed up as a genuine news story, as along it met a “celebrity quotient”. Celebrities were available to attend the event at an extra cost, he said.

“Once you are able to share it (the launch product) with us, we could always build a story around it and make an interesting article for the readers,” he said. “Basically, if you are looking at a launch, then it can go on ‘launch pad’, on page 3 of Delhi Times.”

Sambasivan confirmed that the latest launch pad feature, in which Katrina Kaif, the Bollywood star, promoted Uni-ball pens, had been paid for by a marketing company. The article, which has no writer’s name attached, does not make clear that it was sponsored.

In it, Kaif, 26, gushed: “I’m excited about being the face of a youthful, high-quality, international brand, which I have personally grown up with in the UK; and I particularly love Uni-Jetstream, which I think is the smoothest pen in the world.”

Ravi Dhariwal, the chief executive of The Times of India, said yesterday: “There is no paid in news in any of our main papers and titles. We do have advertising and promotional supplements which sometimes carry paid features.”

The practice of “paid news” has been widely criticised.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, one of the authors of Press Council report, said adverts posing as new were “cheating” readers.

Also read: Good morning! Your paper is free of paid news

Roy Greenslade: India’s dodgy ‘paid news’ phenomenon

‘If we don’t get it first, why should we want it?’

Network 18 bossman, Raghav Bahl, receives some loaded questions from Sunil Jain of the Financial Express, in an interaction with journalists of the The Indian Express group:

Sunil Jain: The SEBI chief [M. Damodaran] once spoke of  “anchor-investors”. Also, how do you justify your getting into private treaties?

Raghav Bahl: On “anchor-investors”, I never quite understood what Damodaran was saying. It is easy to accuse. I went to the SEBI chairman and said, “If there an iota of evidence, please give it to me in confidence. I assure you action will be taken.” But there was nothing. No evidence.

On paid news, a business journalist is under suspicion ab initio. This is what I have learnt in 20 years. Because when you say something is good, the first inference is that this guy is on the take. It is a cross that a business journalist carries. But I don’t think that is true.

At the end of the day, in my experience of 20 years, I don’t think anybody has ever produced anything tangible against any of our journalists. Errors, yes, they certainly happen. Do you get setup by somebody? Yes, you do. You can make a mistake but you correct it quickly.

Coming to private treaties, we did treaties of the value of Rs 30 to 40 crore. That’s all we did. We believe commercially, it is a loss-making model. Because 45 per cent of your non-cash revenues are out of your pocket on Day 1–in service tax and income tax. So we believe it is a loss-making model. We stopped it.

Sunil Jain: What about the ethics of it?

Raghav Bahl: Ethics can be compromised even without a treaties deal. Why will you do a treaty to compromise ethics? If you need to compromise ethics, why will you take your money in cheque, backed by 10 pages of an agreement? So I do not buy the ethics point at all. It’s a revenue earning mechanism, but is an extremely inefficient mechanism. I think it is a legitimate use of your editorial position.

Sunil Jain: How do you justify CNBC walking out of interviews if another channel gets them first?

Raghav Bahl: I think it’s a legitimate use of your editorial position. Don’t you do it? If the prime minister is giving you an appointment, won’t you want it first? It is a legitimate effort by a journalist to get it first.

Also read: What Raghav Bahl could learn from Samir Jain

Business journalism or business of journalism?

Is ethical journalism is a bad word at CNBC-TV18?

MTV isn’t the only channel making a bakra out of you

The media and the stock market collapse

Income, outgo, assets, liabilities, profit and loss

With journalistic integrity, both individual and institutional, increasingly under question with the spurt of paid news, private treaties, mediating, brokering and other wheeling and dealing, there have been growing calls for journalists to also declare their assets and liabilities, much like politicians, judges and bureaucrats.

Ravi Belagere (in picture), the colourful and sometimes controversial editor of the Kannada tabloid Hi Bangalore!—whose ad-free menu is a heady cocktail of crime, cinema, sleaze, politics and literature—has been doing just that on the pages of his paper for years now.

Every September, the popular and prolific Belagere, who also writes and publishes books, hosts television shows, acts in movies, and runs a school on top of his journalistic duties, publishes not so much a list but a confessional of what he holds and what he owes.

This is Belagere’s deeply personal “P&L statement” for the year gone by (translated from the original Kannada), published in the October 7 issue of Hi Bangalore!.

If nothing else, it offers a start.

By RAVI BELAGERE

“It is account-giving time once again.

“For someone who rode to Bangalore on his motorcycle with Rs 380 in his pocket, if I am anything today, it is because of Hi Bangalore!. For 15 years, I have been a humble servant of you, my reader, and it is my duty to present my accounts before you, my master.

“Except for two buses which I purchased for Prarthana School, I did not obtain any moveable assets  this year. For my personal use, I have a Skoda and Volkswagen, with the Skoda being put to greater use. But, as you are aware, in the second-half of the last year, my movements were restricted [due to an illness].

“There is a Maruti Omni in the garage for the use of the office staff. The Ind-Suzuki and Bullet motorcycles that are so dear to me, continue to remain parked there.

“I did not buy any new clothes either but I did buy books as if they were going out of fashion.

“I purchased a house-site in ‘Karishma Hills’ on the outskirts of Bangalore in the name of [third son] Karna and work on a new house has begun. I have bequeathed my Padmanabhnagar house, Amma, and a flat to my daughter Bhavana. The other house in Seshadripuram is already with my other daughter Chetana. At the moment, my wife Lalitha, mother-in-law, children, grandchildren, me and the dog stay in our Banashankari house, Ammi Jaan.

“Last year, I had purchased a house that [woman Friday] Nivedita had bought and donated it to Seena (nick name of Srinivas), who has been with me and been my shadow for nearly 30 years.

“As for my office, my friends keep teasing me,  ‘This is your Brindavana’. In Brahmin patois, Brindavana means final resting place. This office is my own.

“I have only one bank account, at Karnataka Bank, and have debts of nearly Rs 4 crore.

“Last year, I paid income-tax of Rs 54,44,450.

“Both the newspaper and the publishing house are in the black. The monthly employee costs of Hi Bangalore! is about Rs 4,20,000, and Nivedita is the highest-paid employee.

“There are 349 employees in Prarthana School which has 5,900 students. Their annual wage bill is Rs 2,00,82,000. Prarthana has four buildings of its own, and a small playground. Besides, I have rented two rooms. This year,too, principal Sheela was honoured by the government for the 100% pass-rate in SSLC.

“As you are aware, I devote a portion of my profits for poor students and the sick and ailing. Several children, all the way up to engineering and medical students, are availing the scholarship instituted in the name of my friend ‘SitanadiSurendra. The good news this year is that one of the girls is appearing for the IAS. Tens of heart and kidney patients, cancer victims, HIV-afflicted are benefitting from the donations.

“All the money for these ventures comes from you, the reader. My task is merely to distribute it.

“This year, thanks to my laziness, I did not write a single book. The publication of O Manase suffered hiccups for the same reason.

“From the moment Hi Bangalore! was born, my friend R.T. Vittal Murthy has been with me through thick and thin. He is my biggest asset.

“After this declaration, what more is there to admit?”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: ‘Editors and senior journalists must declare assets’