Posts Tagged ‘Times Private Treaties’

Tehelka promoter’s woes just don’t seem to end

16 April 2011

K.D. Singh, the controversial promoter behind Tehelka magazine and its shelved Financial World newspaper project, is once again in the news—for the wrong reasons.

Already under a shadow after allegedly buying his way into Parliament last June, and after being stopped at Delhi airport with Rs 57 lakh cash last month, India Today magazine reports that Singh is now under the scanner of the economic offences wing of the Union home ministry.

Reason #1: Singh’s Alchemist group “may have artificially rigged the share prices” in five companies—Usher Agro, Sel Manufacturing, Dhanus Tech, Pyramid Samira and Resurgere Mines.

Reason #2: The stake picked up by two foreign institutional investors (FIIs)—Mavi and Somerset—with links to banned stock market operator Nirmal Kotecha, in Alchemist realty.

The India Today story, authored by former Tehelka business editor Shantanu Guha Ray, says the stock market regulator SEBI is aware of the charges of share-rigging, and is also probing why two Singh companies, Alchemist Limited and Alchemist Realty, did not make mandatory annual and quarterly account disclosures to the Bombay stock exchange (BSE) and the national stock exchange (NSE).

Kotecha had been banned from trading on the stock market in 2009 in a forgery scam involving Pyramid Saimira. (Rajesh Unnikrishnan, an assistant editor of The Economic Times of The Times of India group, and Tatva, a PR firm involved in a joint venture with the Times group, were also banned.)

Shankar Sharma, an earlier Tehelka promoter, too had run into problems with SEBI, and faced charges of manipulating the market with advance knowledge of Operation Westend, a sting operation that caught the then BJP president Bangaru Laxman with his hand in the piejar.

Photograph: courtesy Alchemist

Also read: Moneybag MP says he didn’t turn off FW tap

‘ET Wealth’ skirts ethical rekha from issue one

15 December 2010

After bundling The Speaking Tree with The Times of India, the country’s biggest newspaper group has unveiled a new product that comes bundled with The Economic TimesET Wealth.

The 48-page personal finance newspaper, in a Berliner format a la Bombay Mirror, is issued with ET on Mondays. It will be supplied free in the first two weeks, but will be prized at Rs 5 each week after that.

In other words, the onus is on the subscriber to let the hawker/ vendor know if she does not want ET Wealth with his paper every Monday. Or else, the monthly ET bill surreptitiously swells by Rs 20 or 25.

Edited by former Business Today editor Rohit Saran, ET Wealth skirts with the non-existent ethical lakshman rekha from issue no. 1.

The only advertiser in the launch issue is Nirmal Jain-owned private wealth management firm, India Infoline.

There are six strip ads, eight quarter-page ads, nine half-page ads, and three full-page ads, all of IIFL, without disclosing even once that IIFL is a Times Private Treaties partner. Which means that the Times group is invested in the advertising company that is selling its wares to readers.

Also, the real estate pages in ET Wealth have been compiled with magicbricks.com, again without revealing that the online realty firm is a Times of India property.

‘Vijaya Next’ editor Deepak Thimaya resigns?

15 June 2010

PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and PALINI R. SWAMY in Bangalore write: Vijaya Next, the weekly Kannada newspaper launched by The Times of India group for the “upwardly mobile Kannadiga population”, is said to be looking for a new editor, just three weeks after the paper hit the stands.

Sources at Times House on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg claim the paper’s first editor, Deepak Thimaya, put in his papers days after the 24-page, all-colour paper was launched on May 28 and has been relieved. He is said to be serving his notice till the end of the month.

“Yes, we are searching [for a new editor],” messaged a Times insider.

There were indications in Bangalore that something was seriously amiss at the paper from Day One.

Thimaya, a well-regarded interviewer for Udaya TV of the Sun group and a noted quiz compere and emcee, was conspicuously absent from the first issue of the paper itself. There was no article or interview by him, and the only place his name appeared was in the imprintline.

In fact, Vijaya Next staffers were surprised that the paper was introduced to the “upwardly mobile Kannadiga” in a signed piece not by Thimaya, the paper’s editor, but by Visweshwar Bhat, the editor of the group’s flagship Kannada daily, Vijaya Karnataka.

Times sources in Delhi are understandably tightlipped over what went wrong as the hunt for a new editor gathers pace. Insiders at Vijaya Next in Bangalore say Thimaya was out of sorts in the new medium although this must have been blindingly obvious to Times managers who wooed and hired him.

“It’s all a big mess. They bought a Kannada paper (Usha Kirana) and turned it into ToI Kannada. They got rid of its first editor (Venkatanarayana) by bringing in Ishwar Daitota. They shut ToI Kannada down and launched Vijaya Next. They brought in Deepak Thimaya to get rid of Daitota, and now even he is gone,” said an exasperated Times insider.

The first indications of trouble came when, even before Vijaya Next was launched and with Thimaya already on board, Vijayanand Printers Limited (VPL) president Sunil Rajshekhar roped in E. Raghavan, former resident editor of The Times of India in Bangalore, in a consulting role.

Rajshekhar and Raghavan had been part of the team that launched The Times in Bangalore, although Times managers claim “old school” Raghavan had to be pushed to The Economic Times in 1996 to begin the “reforms” process at ToI that eventually enabled it to overtake market-leader, Deccan Herald.

The first three issues of Vijaya Next have come out under Raghavan’s stewardship to a tepid-to-cold market reaction. Most of the claimed circulation has come from complimentary copies slipped in with Vijaya Karnataka.

Last Saturday, Thimaya had this telling status update on his Facebook account:

Times House insiders in Delhi say the group isn’t looking at Raghavan, who retired from the Times group to serve as a consultant to arch-rival DNA in Bangalore, as a replacement for Thimaya. A number of names, including that of a theatre activist, is doing the rounds.

Sunil Rajshekhar who left Times to launch indya.com for Rupert Murdoch returned to the group to head Times Internet Limited (TIL) and was then shafted to Times Private Treaties (TPT), from where he returned to Bangalore to replace Chinnen Das as president of VPL, the BCCL subsidiary, that the group purchased in 2007.

Photograph: courtesy deepakthimaya.com

Also read: Vijaya Next gives ToI Crest a Kannada avatar

The Times of India to shut down Kannada edition

PRABHASH JOSHI, A HINDI TITAN, IS NO MORE

6 November 2009

PRABHASH

sans serif records with deep regret the passing away of the veteran Hindi editor and a fearless voice against media malfeasance, Prabhash Joshi, in New Delhi on Friday morning. He was 72 years old.

Founder editor of the Hindi daily Jansatta published by the Indian Express group, Joshi was a key member of the inner circle of the paper’s fiesty proprietor, Ramnath Goenka. Equally proficient in English, Joshi served as resident editor of the Express in Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Delhi.

Joshi had lately taken on a lead role against the selling of editorial space for advertisers by rapacious Indian media houses. He wrote a searing four-part series on the topic in Jansatta, which he continued to serve as editorial advisor after his retirement.

He was also a key speaker at a seminar* on the subject held by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) in the capital last week, where he revealed the plight of the BJP leader Lalji Tandon, whose campaign in the recent elections was not covered by a single newspaper because he declined to pay for coverage. Tandon won despite the media blackout.

Fittingly, for an avid cricket fan, Prabhash Joshi’s innings came to an end as he watched India fight back in a one-day international match against Australia in Hyderbad, in which Sachin Tendulkar scored the innings of his life while crossing 17,000 runs in his career.

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy Tehelka

Read the PTI report here: Noted journalist Prabhash Joshi dies

Also read: Searching for Prabhash Joshi on Google

Guess who monetised editorial space first?

2 November 2009

thepioneer

“Paid News”—editorial space being sold for a fee, without revealing to news consumers that it is an advertisement—is suddenly all the rage, with the Magsaysay Award-winning journalist P. Sainath weighing in on the issue.

In just the last week, the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) has conducted a seminar on the topic*; the communist party leader Prakash Karat has dropped some pearls of wisdom; The Hindu has editorially commented on the issue and warned of a follow-up editorial; and media-watchers like B.V. Rao, formerly of the Indian Express, Star News and Zee News, and Mahesh Vijapurkar, formerly of The Hindu, have thrown fresh light on the subject.

But the phenomenon of “paid-for news” is really the institutionalisation of an individual transgression.

Individual reporters and editors with feeble spines—in politics, in business, in cinema, in sport; in English, Hindi and every language; in every part of the country—have always been available for grabs. They could be relied upon to mortgage their minds and do the needful in exchange for cash, cars, government accommodation, house plots, and other sundry benefits (as this news item in The  Pioneer hints at).

A whole band of editors and senior journalists were not loathe to calling up chief ministers (and other movers and shakers) for advertisements to shore up their bottomlines.

And several have done far worse.

In a way, they were only marginally different from “paid news” and are, in many ways, its precursor.

The key difference is that the bean counters in media houses have realised that, in a downturn, there is a small mountain of money to be made by monetising editorial space, and that advertisement as news can put some black on the bottomline. But can mediapersons have any objections over the institutionalisation of a retrograde practice without tackling the individual sins?

* Disclosures apply

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Pioneer

Also read: Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

Selling the soul? Or sustaining the business?

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

ADITYA NIGAM: ‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

30 September 2009

NDMA-Letter

The media is pilloried, and rightly so, for erasing the line between editorial and advertising. Space sellers are slammed, and rightly so, for allowing advertisers and agencies to run riot. And publishers and editors are pilloried, and rightly so, for not standing up and telling advertisers, agencies and space sellers where to get off.

But what when the advertiser is the government, as the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) is?

And what when the government as advertiser tries to set the editorial rules and guidelines in a tight advertising market, when it tells you how to write the article, how to do the layout, and what kind of newsprint to choose, all in the name of public awareness?

Also read: Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

Old wine in very old bottle is still old wine

26 September 2009

toi

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The Times of India has unveiled its ‘Crest Edition‘ in Bombay and Delhi with a 40-page offering at an “introductory price” of Rs 6 per copy. (The ‘Crest Edition‘ branding is embedded below the masthead in italics.)

“Why another newspaper or magazine, you may well ask. Don’t we already have enough? To begin with, Crest isn’t really a new paper or magazine. It is The Times of India unbound, with narrative pieces that sparkle with rich reporting, great perspective and Aha! moments. We will leverage TOI’s unequalled network of correspondents, analysts, writers and editors to anticipate the changes bubbling below the surface of society as well as enhance our understanding of the world around us. Crest is for the curious mind; it hopes to be every intelligent reader’s guide to politics and policy, art and culture, environment and education, and more,” writes The Times of India‘s editorial director Jaideep Bose in an introductory edit.

The new paper’s menu, self-explanatory, is as under:

menu

The colour theme is: aquamarine with promise of ‘seas unsailed and shores unhailed’.

“Aquamarine is the colour of adventure, surprise and delight. It stimulates, it excites, and it’s cool. It invokes sky, ocean and earth.”

***

All things considered, Crest, coming from the house of the world’s largest English newspaper, breaks no fresh ground and is in fact reminiscent of the Sunday edition of The Indian Express in its design and stories.

Nothing about the new paper—the price (double the regular Times‘ Saturday cover price of Rs 3), the quality of the newsprint (standard), the choice or display of stories—suggests “premium”, “lofty” or “high road”, terms used by Times in promoting its newest baby.

In fact, the tiny masthead of the new Crest edition suggests that Times, which burnt its hands with its earlier premium offerings in Bombay—The Independent and The Metropolis in Bombay—is playing it extra-safe in an uncertain advertising scenario and in markets where the perception is growing that ToI is feeling the heat from a variety of sources, including the competition, for keeping reader interest subservient to the advertiser’s.

The registration number and issue date of the Crest edition is that of the regular paper and the editors are the same as that of the regular Saturday paper (Derrick B D’Sa in Bombay market and Vikas Singh in Delhi market), suggesting that Crest far from being a new paper is just a new, souped-up edition of the old one, issued in the hope that the daily reader will graduate to the new edition over the weekend and help The Times bottomline floundering in the face of the paper’s private treaties and other misadventures.

In earlier days, newspapers had the dak (postal) edition, which was printed earlier than the City edition and mailed to faraway centres or transported over long distances by road and rail.

The Crest edition is a similar venture but legal experts in the print industry might like to look at a juicy question:

Can a newspaper with the same title, same registration number, same volume number, same issue number, and same editor be sold at different cover prices in the same City on the same day?

The RNI number for the main edition of The Times of India in Bombay on Saturday is 1547/57.

The RNI number for the Crest edition launched on Saturday is 1547/57. The volume number (CLXXII) is the same for the main edition and the Crest edition, and the issue number (227) is the same too.

So, has the Times taken a legally questionable step in publishing and selling a different edition of the paper at a different cover price?

Also read: A lofty title takes the high road at premium price

Readers take rest. Premium readers take Crest

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

3 August 2009

dhpuravankara

dhprovident

The Times of India may have made many sterling contributions to Indian journalism in the first 150 years of its existence, but its chief claim to fame in the last 21 years has been to blur the distinction between editorial and advertisement to the extent of rendering the former irrelevant to journalism.

The Times is, of course, free to do what it pleases. But when the market leader with a stranglehold on circulation and advertising revenue sets such a low editorial benchmark, it leaves little room for “serious” players invested in journalism when confronted by advertisers accustomed to the red-carpet treatment.

Either they have to swallow their pride and follow the leader hoping no one will notice—or risk losing the advertising and falling by the wayside.

A good example is yesterday’s Deccan Herald, the Bangalore based single-City newspaper that was trounced by ToI in its lair over a decade ago and is now facing fresh competition for the No.2 slot from new entrants like DNA and Deccan Chronicle .

DH carries a half-page advertisement for “affordable premium homes” launched by the listed company Puravankara on page 1, and follows up with a news story on the “good response” to the advertiser’s project on page 4 with prose straight from the advertiser’s brochure.

Only the naive would contend that this is the first time an advertiser has taken an expensive ad on the promise of positive coverage in the news columns, but….

Images: courtesy Deccan Herald

Links via Anand V.

Also read: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

When Puravankara says Jayakar Jerome zindabad

Times Private Treaties: the full list of ‘partners’

17 May 2009

The following is the full and unexpurgated portfolio of Times Private Treaties, the equity-for-ads investment arm of The Times of India group as on 11 May 2009.

The list of clients as per industry has had disappeared from the Times Private Treaties website following the recent media scrutiny, and the Google cache has had also been cleared [before it was recently restored].

tpt

Also read: Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

Sucheta Dalal in public row on private treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

11 May 2009

Miracles never cease, and Times Private Treaties (TPT), the investment arm of Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL), publishers of The Times of India group of publications, is suddenly the object of attention with two competing newspapers having chosen Monday, 11 May 2009,to turn their attention on it.

The first story by Shuchi Bansal and B.G. Shirsat in Business Standard, a competitor of The Economic Times, says the total value of Times‘ portfolio of the 240 companies in which it had invested cash in return for advertising has halved from Rs 2,700 crore to Rs 1,350 crore due to the stock market slump.

S. Sivakumar, the CEO and acting CFO of Times Private Treaties, contests the figure and denies the TPT model has collapsed. The total value of the business is closer to Rs 2,000 crore, he says, of which listed companies comprise only a small percentage; the unlisted companies have lost 40 per cent of their value.

Of the Rs 2,000 crore spent by BCCL in picking up stakes in companies in return for advertising, the group had served ads worth Rs 600 crore.

In other words, an inventory of ads worth Rs 1,400 crore is still to be exhausted.

***

The second story datelined 11 May 2009 on Times Private Treaties is served up by the Times‘ main competitor in Bombay, Daily News & Analysis (DNA).

Special correspondent N. Sundaresh Subramanian takes up the ethics issues raised by TPT’s investment in Pyramid Saimira, the company which was barred by India’s stock market regular recently following an alleged forgery involving Rajesh Unnikrishnan, an assistant editor at The Economic Times.

UTI chairman U.K. Sinha is quoted as saying this:

We are not very happy about these [ads-for-equity] deals. This is not a healthy development. This should not happen. The Securities and Exchanges Board of India has all the powers. It should act.

An unnamed “senior marketman” is quoted as saying: “If this is not brazen insider trading, what is?”

DNA, which puts the value of TPT’s portfolio at Rs 4,000 crore, says the story is not about a company’s bad portfolio of shares. “It’s about a toxic business model, whose noxious elements are contaminating the whole stock-market ecosystem.”

(DNA reports that the list of companies in which Bennet, Coleman & Co has a stake has been removed from TPT’s website following the controversy. The Google cache version can be found here.)

Logo: courtesy Times Private Treaties

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

Sucheta Dalal in public row on private treaties

PRADYUMAN MAHESHWARI: April 1 and the joke is on us (and them)

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