Tag Archives: Raghav Bahl

‘Has media blacked out RIL takeover of TV18?’

As India’s biggest business house Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) goes through the motions of formally taking complete control of one of India’s biggest TV networks, Network 18, the veteran journalist and commentator Kuldip Nayar writes in Deccan Herald:

“I was not surprised when television channels did not cover the taking over of a large TV news network by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited.

“Most channels — roughly around 300 — are owned by property dealers who can afford to spend Rs 1 crore, an average monthly expenditure, through money laundering. Every one of them wants to be the Reliance one day.

“What has taken me aback is that the press has reported the deal but has preferred to keep quiet.

“Even though journalism has ceased to be a profession and has become an industry, I was expecting some reactions, at least from the Editors’ Guild of India. But then it is understandable when it has rejected my proposal that editors should also declare their assets public, the demand which they voice for politicians.

“Double standards make a mockery of the high pedestal on which the media sit.”

Read the full column: Where’s free media?

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Also read: Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win CCI approval?

Reliance has no ‘direct’ stake in media companies

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

‘Media freedom bleaker with Ambani domination’

The takeover of Network 18 group with its myriad news, business and entertainment channels has received scant review in the Indian media, but the author Pankaj Mishra bells the cat in Bloomberg View:

“There is no denying that the future of media freedom in India looks even bleaker than ever after Mukesh Ambani’s Silvio Berlusconi-style domination of both news and entertainment content and delivery mechanisms.

“At the very least, such violation of the rules of the free market should be exposed to intense public scrutiny, even criticism, of the kind the deal between Comcast and Time Warner has provoked in the U.S.

“But a near-total silence from politicians and the mainstream media greeted the extraordinary doubling of gas prices in India.

“When Reliance attempted to throttle the book [by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta] about it, those columnists who had denounced Penguin for agreeing to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History” went oddly quiet.

“And given the “toadification” of large parts of the Indian media, to paraphrase Salman Rushdie, it may even croak out some malicious joy as more independent-minded journalists depart what does look increasingly like a toad-breeding swamp.”

Infographic: courtesy Outlook*

Read the full article: India’s newest media baron embraces censorship

* Disclosures apply

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Also read: Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win CCI approval?

Rajya Sabha TV tears into Reliance-TV18 deal

EPW on the Reliance-ETV-RIL deal within a deal

Anant Goenka: WaPo, Amazon, HT and the Reliance-TV18 deal

Network 18’s right-wing swing on Caravan cover

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The December issue of Caravan magazine has a 16-page cover story on how the Raghav Bahl founded Network 18 has taken a turn towards right-wing politics after its takeover by Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries.

Headlined ‘The Network Effect’ and written by Rahul Bhatia, who authored the Arnab Goswami profile last year, the article chronicles a number of instances to underline the group’s rightward lurch.

# First Post editor-in-chief R. Jagannathan began attending Forbes India meetings in February 2013 as part of a planned integration.

“Glancing at a sheet of paper he had arrived with, Jagannathan yelled: ‘You’re doing it wrong. Forbes is about the wealthy. It’s about right-wing politics. You guys are writing about development and poverty. If you guys don’t get it, I’m going to make sure that you do.”

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# “Last year, CNBC TV18’s Vivian Fernandes, who co-wrote Raghav Bahl’s book, was despatched to interview Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. A person involved with the production of the interview recalled that Fernandes asked a difficult question about water conservation in Gujarat.

“Modi’s organisers had asked to see the questions before the interview, and demanded the water conservation question’s removal.

“When Fernandes sprung it on him anyway, Modi broke away from the camera and glared at a public relations executive in the room.

“‘Why is he talking like this?’ the person recalled Modi saying. ‘Are we not paying for this interview?'” The production crew realised that the interview was part of a promotion for Modi.”

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# “In the weeks leading up to the group’s first Think India conference in April, Raghav Bahl told his management that he wanted to start a foundation called Think Right.

“CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai and deputy editor Sagarika Ghose, objected to the name, believing that it was certain to be misinterpreted. ‘they believed that ‘right’ would come to mean Hindutva, you know?’ a person involved in the discussions said.

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# “‘There was a concerted effort to drive a large visible campaign to prop up Narendra Modi in the run-up to the Think India platform,’ former Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta said.

Each channel, publication and website had to carry promotional material of some kind. ‘They wanted a Modi cover story from Forbes India.'”

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# At the group’s senior management getaway in Macau in early 2013, “the editors’ mood sank further when Raghav Bahl let the large gathering know he favoured Narendra Modi as India’s next prime minister.

“Until last year, Rajdeep was the most important person here. Now after Mr Ambani, Modi is the most important person.'”

“I spoke to the editor again in the middle of November. ‘It’s serious. They have started putting indirect pressure on editors to not criticise Narendra Modi,’ the editor said. ‘I think Think India was created to promote him.'”

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# “Early on November 9, Rajdeep Sardesai travelled to Nagpur to meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Two senior editors in touch with Sardesai independently confirmed that Raghav Bahl had pressed him to meet Bhagwat and other RSS leaders.

“‘Raghav is keen on promoting right-of-centre policies. He believes Indians have enterprise in our blood,’ the person involved in the decision over the Think India foundation’s naming said.”

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# “Network 18 is not alone in its rightward swing, but as Modi’s value in the attention econmy continues to rise, no one in English-language broadcasting has traded more on his appeal than CNN-IBN.

“For four days in October and November 2013, the Centre for Media Studies, an independent thinktank in Delhi, monitored the primetime political coverage of some major English news channels.

“Of the five they surveyed, CNN-IBN covered Modi for over 72 minutes, a greater duration than anyone else. At the same time, it covered Rahul Gandhi for approximately 18 minutes.”

Also read: ‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective TRP

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

Narendra Modi, Mukesh Ambani & Network 18

In the latest issue of Open magazine, former NDTV and Headlines Today journalist-turned-academic Sandeep Bhushan, throws light on how the television media is covering the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate” Narendra Modi:

“Several past and serving employees of the media behemoth Network 18 have told me that a heavy-duty ‘go-soft-on-Modi’ campaign is underway within the group.

“The editorial line is allegedly emanating from the ‘top’.

“A former anchor with IBN7 traces the changes in the network’s ‘line’ to a specific event. They came about only after Mukesh Ambani picked up a stake in the media group. “Arvind Kejriwal was virtually blacked out after he hurled charges at Mukesh. On the news floor, in both CNN-IBN and IBN7, every journalist knows that there are orders to rein in anti-Modi stories,” he adds.

“There are standing instructions to cut live to any Modi rally or speech”, says another journalist.

“However, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, trashes all this. “This is all cock and bull,” he says, “There has been no change in line at any time. Both Rahul [Gandhi] and Modi are top contenders for the PM’s post. We neither deify nor demonise either of them, but analyse their pluses and minuses in great detail.”

“But if Sardesai is right, then how does one explain the cloyingly pro-Modi chant on the group’s news portal, Firstpost.com? Here is a gem masquerading as reportage: ‘Delhi on Sunday witnessed a public the likes of which it had not seen in decades’, thanks to Modi’s ‘rock-star’ image that created a ‘maddening frenzy’.

“Another story headline screams; ‘JD(U) MP makes Nitish [Kumar] squirm: Are you jealous of Modi?’ This article, on Shivanand Tewari’s recent speech in Rajgir praising Modi’s ascent, has little explanation of the ‘jealously’ angle. Yet another so-called report on the website gushes. ‘Patna blasts showed Modi’s leadership, Nitish’s ineptness.’

R. Jagannathan, editor-in-chief of First Post, defends the group website by saying. “We are essentially an opinion portal. We also carry news. We have different editors who are free to air their own views. As the editor-in-chief, I don’t interfere.” On the Ambani factor, Jagannathan says, “I report to Raghav Bahl and there are no specific editorial instructions from him.”

The Open article also punches holes in the coverage of Narendra Modi by Times Now.

Photograph: courtesy Reuters via First Post

Also read: ‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective TRP

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

Has a ‘desperate party’ bought TV channels?

Udayan Mukherjee out, Shereen Bhan in at CNBC

The following is the full text of the press release issued by Network 18 of leadership changes at the group’s flagship channel, CNBC-TV18.

This comes just a few weeks after four Forbes India editors were forced out of the group.

Insiders say there is more coming as new owner Reliance Industries (RIL) seeks to stamp its footprint.  Already, the word is one top interviewer is unhappy with the renegotiation of the terms of his contract.

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PRESS RELEASE

NETWORK18 ANNOUNCES CHANGE OF GUARD AT CNBC-TV18

“Udayan steps down as Managing Editor, to continue exclusive association with CNBC-TV18 in a new role. Shereen Bhan takes charge of editorial operations from Udayan as Managing Editor”

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Udayan Mukherjee, managing editor, CNBC-TV18 has decided to step down from his full time role, after 15 years of service with the group.

The reasons for this change are entirely personal. Udayan has been facing issues of professional exhaustion and wants to devote more time to other pursuits of personal interest.

However, he will continue his exclusive association with the group, albeit in a contributory and consulting role, through a mix of events, shows and appearances, even as he relinquishes his daily responsibilities.

Shereen Bhan, executive editor, CNBC-TV18 will take over responsibility of the day to day running of the channel as its new Managing Editor from September 1, 2013.

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Speaking on this development, Raghav Bahl, founder & editor, Network18 said: “Udayan has contributed to the emergence of CNBC-TV18 as a benchmark in business news since its formative years. He has ably led the team to many successes and we wish him the very best in his new avatar at CNBC-TV18. Shereen has all the skills and experience to take this mantle forward and we look forward to her leadership”

B. Sai Kumar, group CEO, Network18 said: “Udayan has been instrumental in making CNBC-TV18 the success it is today. We thank him for his invaluable contribution and look forward to his new role with us. In Shereen we entrust the task of leading CNBC-TV18 onto new levels of growth and leadership.”

Udayan Mukherjee said: “I have had a rewarding and enriching 15 year stint with Network 18, but of late the responsibility of running the channel had become repetitive and I had a difficult time motivating myself to continue. At this stage of my life, I need to devote more of my time to other personal passions and interests. CNBC-TV18 has a very talented team in place which will ensure that the channel’s high standards are maintained in the future. I wish the new editorial leadership team the very best and will try, in my limited way, to contribute to its success”

Photograph: courtesy Verve Online

Also read: Tata Steel & the suicide of Charudatta Deshpande

Tatas deny they tried to sully name of Charudatta Deshpande

The 10 bravehearts who stood up for Charudatta Deshpande

Steve Forbes named in Forbes India legal notice

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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

Forbes purge is a ‘freedom’ issue: Editors Guild

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The editors guild of India has reacted to the “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, and the “resignation” of his colleagues Charles Assisi, Shishir Prasad and Dinesh Krishnan.

The guild has termed Network 18′s summary decision as lacking in “elementary courtesy” and that it cuts at the “very root of editorial independence”.

Below is the full text of the statement issued by guild president N. Ravi, former editor of The Hindu:

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“The editors guild of India is deeply concerned over the abrupt termination of four senior editorial team members of Forbes India including its editor Indrajit Gupta, managing editor Charles Assisi, executive editor Shishir Prasad, and director photography Dinesh Krishnan.

“The four senior journalists had worked with the magazine since its inception as part of the launch team, and their sudden removal without reasonable notice and even elementary courtesy cuts at the very root of editorial independence. (emphasis added)

“Basic security and protection from arbitrary action are essential if senior journalists are to go about their task with courage and fairness.

“Whether their termination is a reaction to their insistence on exercising their contractual rights to employee stock options (ESOPS) or is the result of an overall restructuring exercise undertaken by the company is a question to be settled in another forum, and preferably by way of negotiations leading to an agreed solution.

“Considering that senior journalists are involved in this dispute with a media house, the guild would reiterate at this stage that it is essential that all contracts should be honoured.”

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Photograph: Network 18 boss Raghav Bahl (courtesy Forbes)

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Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

Bombay Press Club blasts Forbes India purge