Writing Headlines


BJP leader’s controversial tweet – The Hindu

BJP leader’s controversial tweet – The Hindu.

Where is the anti-Pak rhetoric of BJP?

Where is BJP and its mascot Narendra Modi – the man who used to spew venom against Pakistan and Musharraf and all their “home-bred terrorists” even in his sleep?
Now when a sanghi journalist meets the 26/11 mastermind (the one who organised the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai’s CST Railway station, Hotel Taj, Trident, etc. and killed hundreds) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) boss Hafiz Saeed?
Vaidik, a journalist, met Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan and circulated his photographs. Does anyone of our security agencies notice this? The Central Government has disowned total responsibility, in stead of probing the abuse of privileges.

Journalists have been part of track two diplomacy for a long time

Wednesday, 23 July 2014: DNA
Iftikhar Gilani

Journalists have aided intelligence agencies in backchannel talks with militants
The BJP-led NDA government has washed its hands off the Pakistani sojourns of journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik and his meeting with the 26/11 mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed in Lahore. But it is well known that governments and intelligence agencies across the world have been used to leveraging scribes and businessmen as conduits. Not just to track underground elements, but to keep communication channels open as well. Little wonder then that those into intelligence gathering have failed to finds fault with the Saeed-Vaidik meeting. Their only suspicion: the journalist has used the meeting for self-promotion rather than publishing the contents of the interview in media.

This is not the first instance of backchannel meetings. The government of India — in the past — has used unconventional methods to seek intelligence or establish contacts with militant leaders, in the North-East, Punjab as well as in Jammu and Kashmir. Recall the early 1990s when the killing of four top IB officials had withered intelligence gathering in Kashmir. It is an open secret that the agencies then had to depend on three lady journalists to know plans of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and of other militant leaders.

In 2000, a Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, believed to be working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had successfully led Indian intelligence agencies particularly the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) sleuths and Kashmir’s separatist politicians up the garden path. Ijaz worked as interlocutor — making the first contact between JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik and then RAW commissioner (later its chief) CD Sahay, in a hotel, on the outskirts of Delhi. Yasin Malik however, even while admitting that Ijaz had taken him to his hotel room in Gurgaon, has denied introduction to Sahay.

Mansoor had also reportedly helped the RAW to pull off its scoop of decades, by successfully airlifting then Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) operational commander Abdul Majeed Dar to Srinagar via Karachi, Dubai and Delhi, in May 2000. The exercise was to enable him to announce a unilateral ceasefire. Such was its secrecy that neither the IB nor MI had any wind of the plan.

The Army and the para-military forces even began a relentless campaign of search operations in north-Kashmir’s Kupwara district in the spring of 2000, after their own contacts reported Dar missing from HM headquarters. Mansoor, himself describes the Hizb ceasefire, as “a momentous event in the tumultuous history of the Kashmir valley,” revealing the search for an earnest resolution to the conflict. He reveals that Khalid Khawaja, a former ISI official who piloted Osama bin Laden’s aircraft in Afghanistan during the Afghan resistance, had also taken unprecedented risks in bringing him in contact with the HM chief Syed Salahuddin.

Interestingly, Mansoor’s ‘Mission Kashmir’ did not take a toll on the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, for allowing a mediator, which is against India’s declared policy. But then unlike Vaidik Mansoor always maintained a low profile.

Its worthwhile in this context to recall the writings of the American investigative journalist and author Carl Bernstein on Joseph Alsop, a leading syndicate columnist. Alsop travelled to Philippines to cover the 1953 elections. It later appeared the journalist had gone there on a CIA mission. According to Bernstein, Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists to have carried out secret assignments for the CIA.

“Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go-betweens with spies in Communist countries,” writes the author. Some of them went on to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. India too has its own share of such award winning journalists known for pitching their narratives on intelligence dossiers, without any cross-checking whatsoever.

According to CIA documents, journalists, on many occasions, were engaged to do the bidding of intelligence organisations —with the consent of America’s leading news organization managements. During the Cold War, they were the “eyes and ears” of the CIA; reporting on what was seen or overheard in an Eastern European factory, at a diplomatic reception, revealing the contours of a military base.

A former top sleuth told the dna that he believes that journalists and intelligence agents should enter into a quid pro quo because both carry out the similar job of collecting information. “In return for our giving them information, we may ask them to do things that fit their roles as journalists. We may suggest assignments that they wouldn’t have thought of on their own, ” he said. As as far as ethics is concerned, that’s for journalists and not intelligence agencies to ponder. Sleuths have used media credentials to infiltrate insurgent groups. Former IB sleuth MK Dhar, in late 1980s, had used the accreditation of a BBC journalist to gain access to Sikh militants in Punjab, and later arrange their meetings in Delhi.

Though Indian intelligence agencies cannot be scrutinised, an investigation into the CIA operations by the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church in 1976 revealed the agency’s involvement with the media. But top officials of the CIA, including former directors William Colby and George Bush, persuaded the committee to restrict its inquiry and misrepresent its scope.

Of late, the relationship between media and the intelligence has evolved into a mutually beneficial relationship. Many believe the cooperation between media and intelligence is crucial for sharper intelligence gathering, and in gauging the emergence of new threats, ensuring public and national security.

In 1987, when India was undertaking a military exercises known as Operation Brasstacks , Kuldip Nayar interviewed then head of Pakistan’s nuclear programme Dr AQ Khan in Pakistan. Nayar’s interview with Khan was reportedly organized by Mushahid Hussain. According to V Balachandran, a former RAW officer, the interview helped the entire world to know Pakistan’s perception of the nuclear bomb. “He (Nayar) was criticised, but then the information he got helped all of us,” he said. Similarly a decade later, when India found itself isolated itself in the aftermath of nuclear detonations, the Shekhar Gupta travelled to Islamabad to secure an invitation for Atal Bihari Vajpayee to undertake the Lahore journey. Though, sabotaged by the Kargil intrusion, that journey ended India’s isolation.

The author is bureau chief, dna
http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-journalists-have-been-part-of-track-two-diplomacy-for-a-long-time-2004454 Continue reading

Sena MPs ‘force’ fasting Muslim staffer to eat chapati, Maharashtra Sadan says sorry | The Indian Express | Page 99

It is reprehensible! Forcing a fasting-community and forcing food down their throats! That too in a country known for its religious tolerance!
It’s a shame that Maharashtra’s intolerant Shiv Sena forced fasting Muslims to eat – physically forced, and the Central Government, the same breed of the Sangh Parivar, refuses to make even a comment!

Sena MPs ‘force’ fasting Muslim staffer to eat chapati, Maharashtra Sadan says sorry | The Indian Express | Page 99.

The roots of rape in India

In the last few days, rape has come to the forefront of media discourse in Bangalore. It is difficult to say if rapes and sexual abuses against children and women were already there and were neglected by media or are on the rise now. But one thing for sure: instances of rape and abuses have sent shivers down our spine. Not just women, even men, feel unsafe with such anti-social behaviour.
Here is a perspective by Kancha Ilaiah to understand the unpleasant phenomenon.

by Kancha Ilaiah

Rape has, of late, become an acute disease in the Indian society. Prima facie, this is a problem arising out of a mental disorder, but there is also a larger cultural context that, to an extent, explains how the Indian male became so brutal.

Our cultural upbringing conditions male minds to behave in a cruel fashion with women. Family upbringing, societal conditioning, religious sagas and political animus, all construct our men and women into being what they are — men as aggressive and women as submissive. Which is why men here, in India, are different from men in other countries.

Their cultural milieu is different. Their spiritual systems train them differently. It’s not that only Indian men rape and kill children aged three or five. This happens in other countries too, but they are the rarest of rare cases. Daily reports of infants being raped across the length and breadth of a country is a phenomenon unique to India, a society that’s otherwise highly conservative. Clearly, the institutional upbringing, including that in family, needs to undergo change.

Every time a gruesome rape gets reported, we all are ashamed and angry. That’s one thing; but working out ways and means to eradicate such evil is another thing. We cannot leave it entirely to the police or the judiciary to tackle such heinous acts. For, rape is also a cultural problem; and it is a more serious problem because of the extermination of the victim. We need to treat the malaise from its very roots.

We are a society that derives its sense of good and bad from our mythologies and spiritual ethics. Our gods and goddesses are not only worshipped but also adored. And it is our lifelong endeavour to emulate them. This is the cultural environment that shapes the lives of most people in India. So it’s natural that what gods do influences us much more than the moral lesson at the end. Now consider this: we have gods who, for instance, have cut the nose and ear lobes of a woman who approached them professing her love (Lakshman is depicted as having done this to Shurpanakha), and yet we adore him and see him as a symbol of loyalty, sacrifice and righteous indignation.

Lord Krishna stole the clothes of women while they were bathing in the Yamuna river. He did so to tease them and for the pleasure of watching the beauty of their naked bodies. We hang miniature paintings of the same act in our homes proudly. The young men who grow up seeing this, or listening to the story told in an amused tone are bound to not find such an act abhorrent.

We also have a god, Shiva, who insisted on entering the bathing arena of Goddess Parvati and did so by eliminating a child who was keeping guard at the open door. Lord Ganesha is said to have emerged out of such a union. Is this right or wrong? Our mythology tells us that what a husband does is right, that his will is greater than the woman’s. If a mythological hero is praised for his acts of killing, drinking and fornicating with multiple women (like Indra did with Rambha, Urvashi, Menaka, Tilottama and so on), it is glorification of such behaviour.

When such stories are a part of the mythological texts, they should, at least, be critically evaluated and given a more contemporary, political reading which is rooted in the concept of equality. Instead, the tendency is to not question what our gods did, but simply admire such acts.

Barring a few exceptions, there is no appreciation, per se, of a healthy man-woman relationship which is rooted in the concept of equality. Indian women are shown as lathangi (a person of delicate body), never strong enough to resist her dehumanisation. Though Durga and Kali are shown as strong, in real life such militancy is not seen as feminine.

Now let us turn to the political spectrum. We have had many great men — Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan etc — who got married at a young age with girls of much younger age, went abroad for higher studies, leaving their wives at home totally illiterate or semi-literate. We do not know how these men, or Gokhale and Tilak, treated their wives.

But we know that they were all devotees of the deities mentioned above. The only man who treated his wife as a friend and educated her right from the first day of his marriage, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, is not taught as an example to be emulated in our texts. Somehow, in our patriarchal cultural milieu, unkind and inhuman treatment of women has never been a matter of concern. It’s considered sacrilegious, for example, to question Lord Ram for leaving his dutiful wife on the random outburst of a dhobi.

And Sita’s action, in turn, to not question, but to commit suicide, is considered the epitome of all that is pious. Even Gautam Buddha left his young wife, with an infant child. Questioning such acts has never been part of our public discourse.

Or, look at our cinemas. Ever since the industry came into being, silent or talkie, it has used woman’s body as a money-making object. The song and dance sequence that it has adopted as an art form falls into a common pattern — every hero is licensed to misuse the body of the heroine. The romance in our film industry is not romance; it is vulgarity bordering on the criminal.
So is it a surprise that men of this country see it as their right to violate women in all spheres of life?

The writer is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad
http://archives.deccanchronicle.com/130510/commentary-columnists/commentary/roots-rape-india Continue reading


Posted by Manisha Pande | Jul 21, 2014 in Criticles, Featured

The Indian media landscape is witnessing a change like never before. With corporate buyouts of media houses and rapid expansion across platforms, there’s a pressing need to debate and discuss media ownership rules in India. Every now and then, there’s talk of “self regulation” as an option and history has shown it does not work. The government regulating the media is an even bigger danger and we have seen how that played out during the Emergency and to a lesser extent during several riots in the country.

So, how can media be regulated? To ensure that there is a cross section of voices with varying points of view that form public opinion, many countries have rules on cross ownership of media. We thought we’d fill you in on the basics.

So, what exactly is cross-media ownership? Quite simply, it means the ownership of multiple media businesses by a single corporation or person. Typically, there are two patterns to cross-media ownership: horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal cross-ownership implies a media company having interests across segments like print, television, radio, the web and so on. For example, Bennett, Coleman and Co – also known as The Times Group – owns a thriving newspaper chain (The Times of India, The Economic Times), a TV network (Times Now) and a website (indiatimes.com). Or, Living Media that has interests in magazines (India Today, Business Today), television (Aaj Tak, Headlines Today), radio (Oye 104.8 FM) and the web (indiabizsource.com).

Vertical cross-ownership arises when a broadcasting company that owns a TV channel also controls distributors like cable networks and multi-system operator(MSO), or vice versa. For example, the Essel Group owns TV channels (Zee News) and MSO (Siti Cable).

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So, is that bad? Well, in a way. The media plays an important role in helping a democracy thrive with diversity of opinions. Unregulated cross-media ownership can eventually mean the death of plurality. In fact, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman Rahul Khullar had stated a while ago that cross-media ownership was leading to a monopoly of opinions and poses a grave threat. Also, since cross-media ownership is largely driven by commercial considerations, media conglomerates in such a scenario are more likely to remain loyal to advertisers (large corporations and the government) than to public interest.

Does India have any cross-media ownership restrictions? No, not yet. There are no cross-media ownership restrictions in print, TV and radio in India. In the radio space, there are restrictions on getting multiple permissions across cities for operating FM radio stations. Last year, TRAI had put forward a consultation paper on issues related to media ownership. Its findings and suggestions were opposed by the management of some media houses, including The Times Group.

Do other countries have such restriction? Yes, like the United States and the United Kingdom.

Really? You mean giants like Time Warner and News Corporation have to comply? Pretty much. The US and the UK have put in place regulations to limit cross-media ownership to promote diverse viewpoints, competition, local content and public interest.

Notably, the UK has the 20:20 rule as part of the 1990 Broadcasting Act. The 20:20 rule prohibits owners of national newspapers with a national market share of 20 per cent or more from controlling a licence or owning more than 20 per cent of a television broadcaster or a radio service. The rules in the UK have been changed several times and are being looked into for more changes, keeping the evolving market and internet penetration in mind.

In the US, cross-ownership rules were first put in place in 1975 by the Federal Communications Commission. The country has the “2-out-of-3” rule that limits a firm or an individual to owning only two of the three segments – newspaper, TV and radio – in any given market.

So, all’s well in the West? Not really. Like corporations in India, media moguls there find a way around rules to further their businesses. The US’ media landscape is dominated by the “big six” – that is, Comcast, Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox/News Corporation, Time Warner, Viacom and CBS Corporation. Australian-American businessman Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is one of the world’s largest media groups with newspapers, entertainment groups and publishing outlets in the UK, the US and Australia. He, nevertheless, had to travel half way around the world, across continents, because of cross-media ownership regulations to do so. Murdoch recently made an audacious $80 billion-bid to acquire Time Warner Inc. Though Time Warner rejected the offer Murdoch’s urge to merge is legendary and he’s not known to take no for an answer.

So, what does the future hold? With the Internet converging what used to be TV and newspapers/magazines, it’s anyone’s guess. There are committees and groups looking at what regulation should be like, but it’s a fast-changing landscape and often regulation can’t keep up with the market. India, though, can start with putting in place some basic rules on ownership.
http://www.newslaundry.com/2014/07/21/medias-criss-crossing-interests/ Continue reading

Why Do We Treat PR Like a Pink Ghetto?


Like any journalist, I’m on the receiving end of a fair number of PR emails. Frankly, sometimes they suck; but I can admit that I’ve gotten some good ideas from publicists, too — there’s a range from annoying to on-point. One thing is pretty consistent, though: PR emails almost always come from women.

The job of producing hard-hitting, democracy-protecting journalism is still, statistically speaking, the domain of men. Most newsrooms are more than 60 percent men, whereas 73 to 85 percent of PR professionals are women, depending on how you tally it. They’re women who are paid, in essence, to develop relationships with journalists like me and influence our work. “Phoniness is a criticism leveled again and again at PR as a practice that, after all, necessitates an expression of enthusiasm for a product because of pay rather than passion,” writes Jennifer Pan in the latest issue of Jacobin magazine. While there are many men in PR — including 80 percent of upper management — it’s women, often young women, who are likely to be doing the grunt work of sending emails and writing tweets and cold-calling contacts. The very work that journalists, and the rest of us, are likely to see as fluffy.

Even when women are doing promotional work at higher levels, they still struggle for respect. Take, for example, the case of Whitney Wolfe, the woman whose marketing efforts guided Tinder’s massive growth. She recently sued her co-founders, one of whom said Wolfe “makes the company look like a joke,” for sexual harassment and pushing her out of the company. Given that a dating app is nothing without users — especially female users — and the only way to gain users is through PR and marketing, it’s clear that this work is important and valuable. Not to mention quite challenging. Yet the profession remains synonymous with the worst female stereotypes.

“Publicists are constantly made fun of and mocked for seemingly low intelligence. I had that perception of it before I got into it,” says Meredith Fineman, founder and CEO of FinePoint PR. “I did every area of communications — marketing, advertising, events — but felt like PR was fluffy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.” The Princeton Review, in its guide to careers for college students, explains that “the successful PR person must be a good communicator — in print, in person and on the phone. They cultivate and maintain contacts with journalists, set up speaking engagements, write executive speeches and annual reports, respond to inquiries and speak directly to the press on behalf of their client.” So why do we associate PR professionals with mindless fakery rather than hard-won relationships and quick thinking?

On a New York Observer list of fictional publicists in pop culture, every notable character since the mid-’80s is a woman — typically sharp-tongued but not supersmart. Think Jennifer Saunders on Absolutely Fabulous, or Debi Mazar on Entourage. One of the most popular sketches on Comedy Central’s Kroll Show is “PubLIZity,” a reality-TV parody starring Nick Kroll and Jenny Slate as vapid pseudo-professionals in neon heels. Even when they’re portrayed as savvy, like Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones, PR people are never intellectual heavy-hitters. They are the working world’s sorority girls: salad-eating, prosecco-ordering up-talkers, manicured to the hilt.

The stereotype that public relations is not a serious job has bled beyond media and into the tech industry. If a start-up does have a female co-founder (and less than 13 percent of start-ups do), she’s likely to be in what’s referred to as a “nontechnical” role, often as chief marketing officer. “Valley residents and observers understand the value of the programming, of ‘making something,’ writes Wired columnist Clive Thompson in a post on Medium. “But they don’t grasp the importance of the second part — ‘selling it.’” Whitney Wolfe’s hard work and subsequent dismissal at Tinder is just the most recent prominent example.

Perhaps this is because good PR is supposed to be invisible. “I spoke to Kelly Cutrone recently, who is a friend, about this idea of the ‘dumb PR girl,’” Fineman says. Kell on Earth, Bravo’s reality show about fashion PR maven Cutrone, lasted a single season in 2010. “She made a solid point: If you’re good at it, people only see the shiny outcome. They see the trick that you have performed and they don’t see the hours and work that go into it, and that means you’ve done a good job.” A journalist is rarely going to admit they got a great idea from a press release. Someone who downloads an app or attends an event usually won’t pause to think, “How did I hear about this?” We only notice PR work when it goes horribly awry.

Or when it comes to self-promotion. The invisible labor of PR becomes suddenly visible when women are promoting themselves, which is perhaps why women are so often apologetic about it. Self-promotion means directly asking for attention instead of gaining it through proxies like journalists. In the era of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, even those of us who don’t make our living in PR must decide whether and how to brag about an awesome new job or get friends to sponsor us for a charity run. We’ve seen how pop culture portrays the women who write these emails and tweets for a living. We’ve gotten the message. We don’t want to be thought of as attention-whores, too.

It’s why so many emails and posts from friends promoting their own work come with an apology. My inbox is littered with disclaimers like “I hate hate hate hate self-promo, but …” and “Self-promotion can be yucky, but.” Then there are those who claim “Shameless self promotion!” They are letting you know that they recognize society wants them to be ashamed for seeking attention, and hoping to defuse the annoying-narcissist stereotype by acknowledging it outright. “I’m not that good at self-promotion, myself, and that’s because I’m usually uncomfortable with it,” a fellow journalist wrote me once. “I think a lot of that has to do with being a woman, and with taking hits for being ‘braggy’ or ‘narcissistic’ at some point along the line for seeming confident or proud of my work.”

This is a core professional dilemma for women publicists, and you’d think that in the social-media era, the rest of us would be able to relate. “I walk the line every day between persistent and obnoxious,” Fineman says. It’s a fine line. Perhaps it’s time for us all to recognize that walking it isn’t easy.

http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/07/why-do-we-treat-pr-like-a-pink-ghetto.html Continue reading

Malaysia Airlines Crash: 21 of the World’s Most Powerful Front Pages

Newspaper front pages cover the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster on Friday, July 18 2014.IMAGE: MASHABLE/NEWSEUM

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a missile over eastern Ukraine on Thursday with 298 people on board. On Friday, the world began to process the news.

Newspapers around the globe led their coverage with imagery of the disaster.

From the de Volkskrant of Amsterdam, the country with the most losses, to the New York Daily News’ “Putin’s War,” see the 21 most powerful front pages.

de Volkskrant, published in Amsterdam, Netherlands Friday, July 18, 2014.

Daily News, published in New York, New York USA Friday, July 18, 2014.

The Guardian, published in London, UK Friday, July 18, 2014.

New York Post, published in New York, New York USA Friday, July 18, 2014.

De Standaard, published in Brussels, Belgium Friday, July 18, 2014.

The Times, published in London, UK Friday, July 18, 2014.

Heute, published in Vienna, Austria Friday, July 18, 2014.

Kleine Zeitung, published in Graz, Austria Friday, July 18, 2014.

The New York Times, published in New York, New York USA Friday, July 18, 2014.

Het Nieuwsblad, published in Brussels, Belgium Friday, July 18, 2014.

Metro Curitiba, published in Curitiba, Brazil Friday, July 18, 2014.

Los Angeles Times, published in Los Angeles, California USA Friday, July 18, 2014.

The Calgary Sun, published in Calgary, Canada Friday, July 18, 2014.

Le Journal de Montréal, published in Montreal, Canada Friday, July 18, 2014.

Toronto Sun, published in Toronto, Canada Friday, July 18, 2014.

Chicago Sun-Times, published in Chicago, Illinois USA Friday, July 18, 2014.

The Times, published in Shreveport, Louisiana USA Friday, July 18, 2014.

Boston Herald, published in Boston, Massachusetts USA Friday, July 18, 2014.

Star, published in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Friday, July 18, 2014.

The Sun, published in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Friday, July 18, 2014.

http://mashable.com/2014/07/18/malaysia-airlines-crash-newspaper-front-pages/#:eyJzIjoidCIsImkiOiJfdWVodDk5ZTZlM2toYXhqdCJ9 Continue reading

Network18 founder Raghav Bahl plans to launch digital news outlet

In an interview, Bahl speaks about journalism, his and Network18’s past, and the digital future he sees for media Shuchi Bansal |

Vidhi Choudhary
Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
New Delhi: Raghav Bahl, 51, the founder of Network18 Media and Investments Ltd, who exited after Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) decided in May to convert its debentures in the group into shares and take control, says he loves news too much, and will launch a digital news outlet that would complement his former company’s offerings. “I believe journalism or news will migrate to the online medium,” says Bahl, adding that he was still young (“50s are the new 30s”), and has “experience and capital”.

Bahl walked out of TV18 on 29 May with around Rs.700 crore. He subsequently returned as a non-executive independent director on the board of the company.
Bahl insists there was nothing sudden or surprising about Network18’s takeover by RIL and that it had nothing to do with the formation of a Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre in May, seeking to dispel one popular rumour about the development. He also dismisses subsequent reports about the happenings at TV18 as “surround sound”.

The “transaction started weeks earlier,” he says. And back in January 2012, when RIL invested in the group by purchasing debentures, “we disclosed that they had a right to convert at any moment”.
And he had made it clear to RIL that he would exit once the debentures were converted because he didn’t want to “work as a minority voting shareholder”. In an interview, he spoke about journalism, his and Network18’s past, and the digital future he sees for media (and also for himself).

Edited excerpts: We believe you are venturing into digital media. Could you share your plans?
It’s too early to be concrete about it. But I see myself at an interesting juncture. We finished one innings very satisfactorily and built one of the finest and largest media companies in India. I let that be and move on to the second thing. I am not very old…50s are the new 30s. Also, the handicaps—no capital or experience—I had when I started Network18 are not there. So if I am young, have experience and the capital, I’ll do something. I am too much of a news lover and the obvious thing to do is in the digital space because I believe journalism or news will migrate to the online medium. We will do news in English and Hindi to begin with. Regional will come later.

Will you compete with RIL in this space?
I think we will be complementary because 4G will be the platform on which a lot of our products will be carried. So we will be complementary and not competitive. We may compete with some other brands of Network18, but that is inevitable if you’re going to be in the content space. This is just the beginning of the Internet. There is space for hundreds of us.

[Raghav Bahl says he is too much of a ‘news lover’ and entering the online medium is the obvious thing to do.]
Will this news be screen-agnostic and available on mobile phones, tablets and computers?
It is my conviction that in the next decade, news would move entirely to the hand-held devices because it’s not a community consumption exercise. It is personal. We read our news one-on-one. And the ease with which it is getting disseminated on hand-held devices, it does not require a very innovative mind to say that this will go hand-held.

You are known for working with foreign media brands such as CNN and CNBC. Will you do similar tie-ups in the digital space?
We are very open people. I had a great run working with the Americans. We had five very successful joint ventures in India (with) CNN, CNBC, Viacom, Forbes India and A+N Networks. I have great admiration for the way the Americans do business. They drive a hard bargain, but once they do it, they stick to their contracts. So we would love to do more business with American companies. They bring the best practices. But this time, as we said, we are not starved for capital, so we will write much better terms for ourselves.

The return on investment in digital still remains very small.
I think you are reaching an inflection point and you will see audiences moving very strongly in favour of multimedia and hand-held content. Once they do that, advertisers and revenue will follow. We are beginning to see that. I agree revenues haven’t moved as much, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t.
{Raghav Bahl clears the air around Reliance Industries’ takeover of his company.}

Was the takeover fractious or amicable?
There has been a lot written on this. I did not speak because the transaction was still being done. Last Monday (7 July) is when the transaction got completed. A lot of commentary has happened on it. Some said it was acrimonious, others wrote it was sudden and not a nice way to go. I think it’s important for me to say a few things very clearly. It is a very under-appreciated fact that our declaration of January 2012 was the most transparent declaration of how a joint venture financing was structured. We declared everything. The funding was coming into my holding company. We declared that the ultimate beneficiary of that funding was Reliance Industries. We declared that Reliance Industries was not going to exercise any control on the group either by way of being on the board or having access to any information rights. They were a pure financial investor in my holding company.

However, it was equally disclosed that they had a right to convert (debentures into shares) at any moment. As an entrepreneur, I was very clear, and I must give full credit to Mr (Mukesh) Ambani that he was equally clear… I said as long as I continue to exercise full control, full voting control, 73% of promoter’s equity, I will be there. The day you (Reliance Industries) decide, for your own plans and objectives, in this 10-year period, that you wish to convert and become the majority voting shareholder, I will be available as a friend, philosopher, guide, but I will not work as a minority voting shareholder. I will exit.

There was no question of acrimony. Mr Ambani never interfered at all in the two-and-a-half years. He stuck to the agreement he made to me in letter and in spirit. The instrument was clearly disclosed to the world and that the 10-year instrument was convertible at a moment’s notice.

But that moment is questionable.
It is part of their business plan at this point to become owners. I gave them the right in 2012 with my wits about me. It would be immoral, unethical and illegal on my part to go back on a contract. Raghav Bahl says that the timing of RIL’s takeover of Network18 had nothing to do with the new BJP government.

But why did Reliance move in immediately after the formation of the new BJP government?
It’s got nothing to do with it. There are lots of nonsense coincidences that happen in life. The process of this transaction had started a few weeks earlier. No one knew what government is going to be in Delhi or what would happen. This is a commercial transaction and (has) got nothing to do with any change in government. The linearity will tell you the process started much earlier.

Some said it all happened in three days. A takeover filing with Sebi (Securities and Exchange Board of India), the draft offer statement—it’s such a complex document and can’t be put together in three days.
There were a few weeks before that when conversations were coming around to Mr Ambani saying that it was now for reasons of his own corporate plan he needed to convert.

But didn’t you try to source funds from elsewhere to stonewall it?
No. No question. I gave that right.

What were the compulsions when you signed the deal originally?
One shouldn’t mince words here. We had our back to the wall. We were in a classical debt trap. Our market cap had come down to Rs.400 crore, our debt was over Rs.2,000 crore plus. So a debt to market cap ratio of five. We would not have survived.

How do you think your employees view you and how will you be remembered in the history of broadcasting in India after this deal?
I believe they will be fair. Everyone will be fair. Time is a great healer. Time brings a correct perspective to issues. When you are too close to the events, you end being run over by emotions or take a slightly myopic view of things. As far as employees are concerned, would they be disappointed? Yes, they would be.

Is there cause for alarm? I believe not. I believe that this company will be run on principles of sound, credible journalism. A fine, independent board has been created. Mr Deepak Parekh and Mr Adil Zainubhai are pedigreed individuals who will ensure that standards are kept up.

Emotionally, of course, people have a right to feel bad. The fact is that if this hadn’t been done, then a lot of them would have been facing a more dire crisis than what they believe they are facing now. There is no crisis now.

A lot of red flags have been raised internally and externally on vested interests in the new order. Won’t the equity of the news brands you created be eroded?
Such little time has passed. It’s just been a week—last Monday to this Monday (14 July). And we are already using a word like erosion. I for one have no doubt that no erosion will take place. They are all marquee brands. They have been nourished by very high quality journalism. Time will be a much better judge, but I have no doubt…

{Raghav Bahl speaks about where he sees journalism in India heading.}
But the news of directives on coverage is coming out of the newsrooms at the channels.
Some of it comes from apprehension, some of it is giving in to the surround sound.
The track record will speak for itself. How can we jump to conclusions in a week? So people who have a reason to be feeling bad about this, they will certainly let some of that sentiment through.
But that does not stand to any reason or evidence. These are perceptions. But doesn’t news in India promote the vested interests of corporate houses and political parties? Isn’t its future grim?

News media promoting vested interests of corporate and political parties? I just don’t get it. First, they (media) are so plural. Mint, Outlook, Business Standard are all owned by different industrial groups. Network18 is now owned by another industrial group. And this is only at the national level and English-speaking. Go down to the regional paper. With so much plurality, even if vested interests were trying to let the media play to their tunes, the sheer plurality will cancel it out. Having said that, I also don’t believe that Indian journalists are such commodities who are up for sale. They won’t play along something that is so blatant.

Do you feel that the quality of journalism has deteriorated?
Journalism in India is of a very high quality. I don’t think that is an issue. I have never been one of those prophets of doom who say it’s all coming down. I do believe that our media is completely free.
What I sometimes find in the overburdened news environment where things are flashing, and everything is online…either on television or on digital…is the lack of rigour. I really do believe that the ability to get into the second layer perspective, understanding issues or data…is missing. That is not so much a comment on the quality of journalism but it has more to do professionals. So those who are young don’t really have the rigour because they would want to get the news out quickly and the ones who are old—and I say this with all circumspection—mix their opinions into facts. Other than that I do not see India’s news media flippant or sold out. We do seminal work. I see a lot of fair play. And independence.

There are dozens of newspapers and channels. So anyone who says that India’s news media can all be stacked in one direction has got it all wrong.

Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Consumer/jEEPm2TwUKZtrhl5uAmDBM/Network18-founder-Raghav-Bahl-plans-to-launch-digital-news-o.html?utm_source=copy Continue reading

RIL Take-Over Of Network18: Why Does It Make The Media Nervous?

Submitted by admin on Mon, 07/14/2014 – 11:22

Media coverage of the recent acquisition of media group Network18 by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited was muted. While some chose to skip the news altogether, others appeared cautious. The majority saw this as the end of media independence in India, and raised serious concerns about credibility and Press freedom. Is the fear factor justified, asks Simran Sabherwal

On July 7, 2014, as the Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) announced that it had taken control of Raghav Bahl’s Network 18 Media & Investments Ltd and its subsidiary TV18 Broadcast Ltd, the media industry went into defence mode. Though the deal had been the talking point internally within the industry for some time, media coverage for the acquisition itself was restrained, even as Twitter and other social media platforms sought to find reasons and voice fears about it. While the Print and Digital platform did cover the take-over of the media company by India’s largest private sector firm, Television by and large chose to ignore the issue, leading to veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar’s comment in the Deccan Herald: “I was not surprised when TV channels did not cover the taking over of a large TV news network by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries… What has taken me aback is that the Press has reported the deal, but 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.”

Despite the cautious approach adopted by most, some in the media have actually questioned whether the media scene in India will ever be the same again. Large corporates investing in media has been the norm in India, even before Independence, therefore this question: What makes the RIL acquisition different from the rest?

Call it irony, but this was the headline given by Megha Bahree, a contributor in Forbes Asia, the Indian edition of which is a major asset in the Network18 stable: “Reliance Takes Over Network18: Is This The Death Of Media Independence?” In two words: Quite likely.

Independent journalist and educator Paranjoy Guha Thakurta (whose book The Gas Wars, a critical account of Ambani’s gas business, led to a Rs 100 crore defamation suit by RIL) says that while RIL’s decision to wrest full managerial and editorial control over the Network18 group was not unexpected, (as the company had invested heavily in the media conglomerate in 2012), what is surprising is the speed with which the core team, including Raghav Bahl, Network18 Group’s principal promoter, quit.

Writing in the Economic&Political Weekly, Guha Thakurta says, “What Reliance has achieved by becoming the biggest player in India’s mass media industry is that it has enhanced its ability to influence public opinion through the media, thereby also strengthening its hold over the working of the country’s political economy.” He adds that the consequence of RIL strengthening its association with Network18 will lead to a clear loss of heterogeneity in the dissemination of information and opinions and that media plurality in a multicultural country like India will diminish. He writes, “The space for providing factual information as well as expressing views that are not in favour of (or even against the interests of) India’s biggest corporate conglomerate will shrink, not just in the traditional mainstream media (Print, Television and Radio) but in the new media (Internet and Mobile telephony). There is growing concentration of ownership in the country’s already-oligopolistic media markets. In the absence of restrictions on cross-media ownership, these trends will inexorably lead to the continuing privatization and ‘commodification’ of information instead of making it more of a ‘public good’ that could benefit larger sections of society, in particular the underprivileged.”

When RIL first announced its desire to invest in Network18 in January 2012, it looked to address concerns of editorial influence in its media release which stated, “Bahl and his team will continue to have full operational and management control of both the companies… Bahl and the current promoter entities of Network18 and TV18 will continue to retain control over Network 18 and TV18.”

However, media reports paint a different picture. According to an Outlook report, ‘Big ED In The Chair’, when Forbes India took a light-hearted swipe at the children of the RIL Chairman in an irreverent column, titled Insnider, Manoj Modi, the right-hand man of Mukesh Ambani, threatened to press criminal charges against the then editor of the magazine, Indrajit Gupta, if he did not reveal the source of the snippet. His chilling threat was: “I’m not going to leave, or forgive, the people responsible for this personal attack on Mukesh Ambani.”

The matter was eventually settled when an “acceptable solution” was hammered out and an apology was published on the letters to the editor pages (and not in the editor’s note as demanded). In a cheeky note, Outlook reiterates, “And yes, Manoj Modi is running the show at Network 18 now.”

In his article, “The Network Effect”, in the Caravan magazine, commentator Rahul Bhatia writes, “Reliance’s name provokes a certain kind of reaction among the media in India. The reaction, more often than not, is to proceed with caution. This prudence applies to stories about the company and its interests, as well as to its controlling family, the Ambanis, regarding whom every word that makes it into Print is treated with unparalleled care… Big business has always been well-disposed to the idea of proactively controlling the message, but Reliance’s recent approach – that of controlling the medium—is a rather more elaborate precaution than Indian corporations have taken before.”

Bhatia also cites an incident in 2011 when a cover story in Forbes, on SEBI investigating reports of insider-trading charges against the Ambani brothers, was dropped at the last minute much to the surprise of the magazine’s senior editors. Caravan states further: “Later, in a review meeting with the staff, Bahl took responsibility for the inadequate replacement cover, but did not explain why the story wasn’t carried. Bahl did not disclose that Network 18 and Reliance—which had been mentioned in the story for its troubles with SEBI—were very likely in talks that same February about a Network 18 bailout.”

Outlook also cautions that the takeover of Network18 raises issues for news management in the country, given RIL’s well-known aggressive stance against media houses and publications that run counter to its business interests. The magazine also raises a valid point when it says, “But strangely, there appears to be very little debate about the implications—on public policy, lobbying, regulations—of such a take-over.”

In her article, ‘The Reliance-Network18 affair’ in the Business Standard, Vanita Kohli Khandekar says that there are two dimensions to the affair – the corporate ownership of media and the ownership of media by RIL. Stating that media companies globally have been owned by corporates, politicians, real-estate barons, businessmen… even religious gurus launch newspapers and TV channels, she asks “What is the basis of Ambanis owning a news channel?”. She states, “The worry, rightly, is on Reliance’s sheer size and the span of its heavily policy-dependent portfolio – petroleum, gas, retail – and the potential conflict of interest this could create.” Allaying fears on the stance that Network18’s news channels will now take over, she adds that “an open-minded entry policy” helps have a mix of voices. Kohli Khandekar also has three suggestions that include having an independent-of-the government media regulator with powers a la Federal Communications Commission (US) or Ofcom (UK), a law that forces any organization in the news business to publish its accounts and every detail of who owns it, how it is funded, its revenues, and so on at fixed periods, online and a high-quality, independent, tax-payer funded broadcaster.” She also reflects that “For a noisy news market, it is amazing how little we self-reflect on journalism and where it is headed. Fixing that should be our big worry.”

Commenting in Forbes Asia, journalist P. Sainath says, “The greater the monopolization and corporatization of media, the less the space for smaller voices, differing voices, dissenting voices.” He adds, “Media was the adversary. It would take on those in positions of power, whether in government or the corporate sector. Time alone will tell how that adversarial role will exist under these sort of corporate deals.”

Sucheta Dalal, Managing Editor of Moneylife, writes in an article, “Why is Reliance so angry?”. In the recent past, Reliance has made news for all the wrong reasons. She writes, “Ambani, who has been awkward in handling the media, is not winning any friends by reacting like a wounded tiger. He has shot off multiple legal notices to journalists across the media for their reportage on gas pricing and other issues (including two to Moneylife editors). More importantly, he probably made history as the first media owner to slap defamation notices on his own editor-in-chief.” She adds, “Appearing to gag free speech by using its enormous financial clout bodes ill for RIL. No government can be seen to support this attitude—especially one that has promised better days to the people. But when this aggressive and negative strategy fails to work, it does even more damage to RIL itself.”

To allay these fears, the new management at Network18 which took over on July 7, held a meeting with all the staff at TV18 in Delhi and Mumbai on July 8 and 9 respectively. As per reports, the management – including Alok Agarwal, Rohit Bansal and Umesh Upadhyay – reassured employees about RIL’s honourable intentions and objective to make Network18 a global brand. Reports also say that CNBC-TV18 employees were told that they need not fear publishing any story and can even report on RIL, but shouldn’t publish stories without facts.

While a lot of people are anxious about the latest happenings in the media landscape, Sunil Lulla, Chairman and MD of Grey Group India, believes that this investment is good for the overall media industry, particularly Television news, which has been bleeding of late. He says, “The media business should see this as a very good sign because after many years, a serious player has made such a deep investment in a strong media group. The industrialist probably sees great value in media as a sector and believes it will grow, which is a great sign and a great opportunity. It tells other industries that media is a sector they should think and consider. As a sector, Television should herald the fact that a serious player has entered the game.” On worries of editorial influence, Lulla sums it up saying, “Just because there is a stakeholder interest does not mean that it is being used to influence the media. Without having facts on that, it is very incorrect to make those assumptions.”

Why Now?
At its fortieth annual general meeting (AGM) held recently, RIL announced that the long-awaited 4G broadband network, Reliance Jio, will be rolled out next year. Speaking at the AGM, Mukesh Ambani said that a limited set of trials for Jio is currently under way and expanded trials would begin from August, 2014. He stated, “The year 2015 will see the phased launch of Reliance Jio across India. Millions of customers would have started to use the digital platform and services in their daily lives. The fruits of the tremendous value created by this (Jio) – Rs 70,000 crore – would start to flow”. A key driver which will fuel this growth will be leveraging synergies with Network18 and the content from spanning genres for distribution through broadband technology. When the company announced its acquisition, it said in a press release: “The acquisition will differentiate Reliance’s 4G business by providing a unique amalgamation at the intersection of telecom, web and digital commerce via a suite of premier digital properties.”

On its launch, the Jio broadband service will cover all states – i.e., 90% urban India and 215,000 villages, which will later be extended to cover over 600,000 villages. Ambani also stated, “Reliance Jio will be one of the largest job-creating and wealth-creating business initiatives in India.” He added “Millions of new entrepreneurs and jobs can be expected to spring up in the tertiary and secondary sectors in new and innovative digital enterprises and services.” Commenting on the acquisition of Network18, he said, “The acquisition is through an open offer of Network18 media and investments and its subsidiary TV 18 broadcast by Independent Media Trust, the sole beneficiary of which is Reliance Industries.” He also emphasized that the acquisition would strengthen its 4G business at the intersect of telecom, web and digital commerce and the media through a suit of premiere digital properties.

However, it must also be noted that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) recently stated that the nationwide broadband spectrum of the company should be cancelled for allegedly rigging the auction and violating rules. On its part, RIL has rejected any suggestion that spectrum was acquired in any manner other than through a transparent bidding process duly supervised by the Government as per news agency reports. Business newspaper Mint also reports that another reason is “to get a grip over the whole gas pricing affair”. Quoting a Network18 official, the business daily says that Reliance wants to ensure nothing goes against them in this regard and having “complete control over one of the largest media companies in the country, with a presence across Television, Print and Digital, helps to put across one’s point of view.”


Rohit Bansal @theRohitBansal
– They’re NGOs! :) RT”@hiren_r Everybody worked up abt Ambani takeover of #NW18. Ownership of media by Jain, Dalmia, Birla, Raheja is fine.”
– “@rupasubramanya Innuendo & guesswork entirely. Not one source named in the piece. But hey this is journalism for you in India” true

Gautam Chikermane @gchikermane
-A part of the story that #AllegationPolitics ignores @PaPaFunkk: @gchikermane it was raghav who approached reliance not the other way round
– And when arguments or facts fail, soldiers of #AllegationPolitics bring their fav weapon – name calling.
Looks like an interesting Sunday.
– @rupasubramanya @Outlookindia Allegation politics and innuendo journalism make good friends, natural allies.
– Double standards have a new benchmark – #RIL as a corporate owner is not OK but builder Rajan Raheja as @Outlookindia owner is just fine!
– Amused to read @Outlookindia story on #RIL taking over #NW18. Strange stance from a group owned by a builder.

Sagarika Ghose @sagarikaghose
– Press freedom in jeopardy across globe,acutely so in India:media is all about credibility,once lost, gone forever.
– Couldn’t stop my tears in newsroom today:we made such exquisite music for 9 yrs.All at CNNIBN:Will miss you and always wish you the v best!
– “You gotta know when to hold on, know when to fold up, know when to walk away, know when to run. No regrets!
Wishing new N18mgmnt all success!”

Rajdeep Sardesai @sardesairajdeep
– When there is no freedom, there is no creativity. Gnight, shubhratri.
– So, now some news channels have ‘censors’ sitting in their office, telling them what can/cannot be carried? Whither journalism?
-Emotional afternoon with my colleagues across the IBN network. The tears said it all! Thank you guys! Goodbye and good luck!
– Proud of what we achieved at IBN 18. Built channels from scratch that put journalism first. Will treasure the journey.
– After 9 wonderful years, time to move on from IBN 18. Will miss all my colleagues who made it so special.

Sanjay Arora @chiefsanjay
– The gory story of how Reliance took over Network18 aka CNN-IBN etc. Must Read. Media freedom is a myth. http://www.outlookindia.com/article/Big-ED

Arvind Kejriwal @ArvindKejriwal
– A must read. Pl RT and spread it as much as u can. http://www.outlookindia.com/article/Big-ED-In-The-Chair/291311

Sadanand Dhume @dhume
– This innuendo-heavy Outlook story on Reliance implies that CNN-IBN batted for Modi ahead of Indian elections.
[Ha!] http://m.outlookindia.com/article/Big-ED-In-The-Chair/291311/?maneref=http%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FOGro2n58eC

Sucheta Dalal @suchetadalal
– We’ll c much hand-wringing. But free media & real activism need financial support:can’t survive of love & fresh air: http://tinyurl.com/nrs92oy
– Outlook writes on Ambani takeover of TV18 Group: http://www.outlookindia.com/article/Big-ED-In-The-Chair/291311
… . Well, you can’t silence all. Only when fat pay checks involved!

Sangeetha @SangitaSri
– News that you can Reliance on! #Network18

- See more at: http://www.impactonnet.com/RIL-Take-Over-Of-Network18#sthash.1TmPKkuG.dpuf

http://www.impactonnet.com/RIL-Take-Over-Of-Network18 Continue reading

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