Tag Archives: TPT

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

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

As the year ends, a veteran’s lament for media

B.G. Verghese in Deccan Herald:

“As the year closes, one must with sadness and shame pen a lament for the Indian media…. We must lament a disgraceful fall in standards as revealed by well documented stories of the sale of electoral coverage by sections of the news media through ‘packages’ relating to the kind of treatment sought.

“What earlier seemed an isolated, low-level viral outbreak appears to have gained virulence and epidemic proportions.

“Alarm bells  have sounded. The matter is too serious to be left to drift. Maybe the Press Registration Act needs review to entrench the position of the editor who is even now responsible for everything published, including advertisements.

“Can the law require public interest directors to be appointed to boards of all media houses from  tiered panels to act as guardians of the public interest? The establishment of self-regulatory bodies for the broadcast media by no means precludes the necessity for mandatory broadcast regulations as found in every part of the world. This need not curb media freedom. Fast driving requires good brakes. Should ‘private (ads for shares) treaties’ be required to be mandatorily disclosed by the paper/channel concerned? Can the Election Commission compel separate accounting of all advertisements and advertorial support for candidates under election expense?

“These are obviously extremely sensitive and complex matters that impinge on freedom of expression. But when freedom becomes license, democracy is  in peril.”

Read the full article: Lament for the media

PRABHASH JOSHI, A HINDI TITAN, IS NO MORE

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?

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?

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

Times Private Treaties: the full list of ‘partners’

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

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)