12.3.05

 

The letter

Of course there's no way we can prove beyond doubt that this is the letter, unless PM or the lawyer concerned confirms it, but we thought it is very important not to present a one sided case here. Since it is unlikely that the 'offended' parties will give us copies of their correspondence (unless it's a fresh letter to us - hehehe), and PM has not been in touch with us, this is the best we can do.

Please read the letters, refer to the posts that the lawyer mentions, and make your informed judgement. Do they have a case? Should PM apologise and stop crticiising them? Please make your comments both here, and under the individual posts.

Thank you to the anonymous comments who suggested ways to put up these images.

Here you are folks. Please click on the small pictures to see the full-size pictures.



P.s. Since it is quite possible that we may be asked to remove these, we request you to copy these documents (and also the posts below) and store them elsewhere, where they can be accessed by concerned members of the public. The more copies the better. If you want to display these pictures, please copy them to your own service. They are hosted on a free, anonymous service, so we may get kicked out of there is too much load. Thank you.

11.3.05

 

Offensive? Judge for yourself.

We managed to get our hands on Mediaah!'s archives before PM felt obliged to delete all posts from the blog. We wish he'd kept them up, but we understand his dilemma. After all, would you like a big company's legal department threatening you, harrassing you?

Now, we are told that the posts below are what the TOI found offensive. you judge for yourself whether these posts are "Fair Commentary" or not. Leave your comments under the posts saying if you agree or disagree that it is slander or libel. Leave comments under this post for general comments.

p.s. We also have a boot leg copy of the infamous letter from the TOI. We would like to put it up (its a scan of a xerox) but we don't have the resources to host images anonymously. Your suggestions greatly apreciated.
 

Exhibit Nineteen

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Times makes Mid Day an offer it can't refuse. May up stake to 20%

Will Mid Day Multimedia Limited soon be a Times of India group company?
Although we have no official confirmation from either of the newspaper companies, our sources at the latter and at investment companies indicate that The Times of India has made Mid Day an offer that it cannot refuse.

The investment folks tell us that Times may just up its current 7.44 per cent stake to 20 per cent, secure a berth on the Board and then look at full acquisition at a later date. But our sources in BCCL tell us that there is talk also of a full takeover.

Tariq Ansari, who normally responds to Mediaah’s mails pretty promptly, uncharacteristically turned a deaf ear to our plea for clarity. Mid Day has just moved to a new office and even though the newspaper is doing exceedingly well, the radio division – Go 92.5 – is pecking furiously at its bottomline.

According to a stockmarket analyst, Mid Day is in the same situation as a Business India was some years back. Television was a passion with Ashok Advani then, and radio is the same for Tariq Ansari. And this passion has virtually blinded Tariq into pumping print profits into a medium that requires exxxxxxxtremely deep pockets. The heart has gained precedence over the brain, and while Go may receive wah-wahs with the hipset of Bombay, it isn’t a mass station like Radio City or Radio Mirchi. Or even the equivalent of what a Mid Day is in print.

A Mid Day top brass had once told a journalist that whosoever matches a certain stockprice can buy the company. Well, almost. So in the sabzimandi of Indian media, we believe that the Times have made Mid Day an offer that it finds too irresistible.

Should Mid Day sell stake? Should it sell stake to the Times? Will Times use Mid Day to serve its own ends? Will it continue its policy of treating Mid Day journalists as B-grade employees and pimp Mid Day print space under the garb of Medianet?

Mediaah! learns that a few top Mid Day journalists will put in their papers IF Times picks up controlling stake. A large section of the sales executives have already deserted the company, including former COO Bikash Banerjee who has moved to Business Standard. While the print circulation has reached a new high, the morale could hit rock bottom if Times picks up more stake.

Tariq Ansari will need to do more than just a bit of explaining to employees if he chooses to let his labour of love to become a plaything of the ToI to kill competition. Just selling the entire or part of the family’s 63.79% stake for monies may make fantastic financial sense, but if money is what the Ansaris were interested in making, they could’ve done a lot of other things in life. Right?


What’s your view on Mid Day selling stake? Should it? Should it not? Should it sell to the highest bidder? Will Mid Day loses its masti if Times buys it? Or are we over-reacting? Email your views to midday@mediaah.com

A disclosure: the family of this blogger owns 500 shares of Mid Day Multimedia bought entirely for investment purposes and with the faith that the company had a tremendous future. We repeat: with the faith that the company had a tremendous future... :-(
 

Exhibit Eighteen

Monday, February 28, 2005

Could we have less of The Times of India in Mediaah: BusinessWorld

Vanita Kohli Khandekar’ s media column in the latest issue of BusinessWorld talks of Mediaah! having “floated back into existence in January this year”. It then goes on to say that the “site is juicy as usual, full of gossip and tidbits about media”, but “could we have less of The Times of India?” Why not other radio, TV, film, Internet and TV software entities?

“TOI is not the only interesting publisher in India, even though it is the largest and you get lots of readers from there,” she says. Agree wholeheartedly, Vanita.

There are many reasons why Mediaah! has so much of Times:

1. Other organisations don’t have so many newsworthy (and bizarre) things happening within
2. It’s the largest print player and the most influential of them, so it makes sense covering it
3. There isn’t as much happening elsewhere.
4. People from the Times are more keen on others knowing about what’s happening internally
5. There’s are many interesting events in the North East… how much of all of it do we cover? Why doesn’t BusinessWorld or for that matter any other publication cover the patch-up of only the likes of Anil and Mukesh Ambani and not two paanwallahs on the road. The paanwallahs could also be as prosperous and popular?

But, we get the message, Vanita. And we’ll try and have lesser of the Times.

Khabardaar, all the others!
 

Exhibit Seventeen

Friday, February 25, 2005

Will Manikchand sue Times on Filmfare Awards?

We aren’t sure if they will, though sources very close to Times and Manikchand tell us that the former will try to get a stay on the event happening tomorrow evening. In fact sources within the Times tell us a notice may have already been filed and is being hushed up to bring about an out-of-court settlement. But we don’t know for sure, though if it exists, it will be quite a sting case.

Okay here are the arguments, for and against:

For Manikchand:

1. If the termination as a sponsor is found illegal, it will still be sponsor of the Filmfare Awards
2. Manickchand is a company and that is separate from its CEO Rasiklal Dhariwal. It’s like a contract between Company X and Y, and the CEO of X meets a ganglord, but that doesn’t mean the company-to-company contract with Y can be terminated. The CEO may be sacked but the underlying contract stands.
3. The allegation is against the CEO and not the company, and contracts with the company on a company-to-company basis cannot be terminated
4. As far as gutkha manufacturing is concerned, it has been doing so for the past 15 years and been sponsoring the awards for the past 11 years. If no issue has been raised thus far, why do so now?
5. Any other sponsor associating with the vent will be violating its rights and will have to face legal consequences.

Against Manikchand:

1. Manikchand is Rasiklal Dhariwal’s middle name. You can’t compare a Manikchand with any other FMCG which boasts of years of professional management. Here the gutkha company is still controlled by Rasiklal D, albeit from various corners of the world
2. The public pressure was way too much for Times to handle, and with the government and Shiv Sena asking them to back off Manikchand, the only way to do would be to exit the sponsor. Else, they would’ve to sacrifice the awards
3. The contract may be with the company in letter, but in spirit it’s Rasiklal Dhariwal’s image that looms large
With the new jv partner in BBC, policies have changed on gutkha manufacturing
4. No threats to other sponsors will work, in any case the Swarup group is not a title sponsor. The SGI group is presenting…

We believe that the Times of India group has another ace up its sleeve. And that is regarding Rasiklal D’s other problems. Surely, the group can pull some strings at the right places to ease things for the man with a quid pro quo that he forgets about the sponsorship of this year’s Awards.

All’s fair when it comes to Filmfare!
 

Exhibit Sixteen

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Times plays up fake NASA news, sermonises media on not checking with NASA on another

Should you trust everything that's on the wires? Given that the news agencies have their own checks and balances and are extremely trustworthy, there’s a tendency to blindly take whatever comes on the ticker.
But with the advent of 24x7 television news, the business of wired services has changed dramatically. Bureaus are short-staffed – often a single reporter can be found working on two or three key beats, and the quality of talent in general has also dipped considerably over the years.

We’ll possibly discuss the state of our news agencies some other day (after we’ve studied the scene better), but what has got us to raise the issue is this news item that appeared in The Times of India last week on life on Mars. It was on top of Page 1, and the story was attributed to ‘Agencies’ and talks of two NASA scientists submitting their findings.

Now, we learn from the excellent blog of Bangalore-based journalist and restaurateur Madhu Menon that NASA has clarified that the claims are incorrect. Madhu has of course taken off on the Times for publishing the item, and I don’t subscribe to the shrill, but it’s important to note for a newspaper of the Times’s standing that it mustn’t take agency copy at face value.

1. It should’ve identified the agencies. If you are using the works of a contributor, and find it good enough for Page 1, give us their names.

2. You have a senior journo in Chidanand Rajghatta stationed in Washington who has written today about the Indian media being taken for a ride on another NASA-related issue. “India's media-on-steroids may well owe a mea culpa for falling all over a story without taking even the elementary step of e-mailing or phoning NASA or looking up its extensive website, to confirm its authenticity”. Well said, Chidu. This is what the Times should’ve done.

3. Apologise if you err. It’s best to say sorry and let readers know that you are willing to own up to a mistake. Entities like Mediaah! apologise even they’ve made no mistake just because they don’t want to take on the high and mighty. But imagine if a NASA were to sue you-know-who for affecting its credibility and business interests without checking on facts...

Wink, wink.
 

Exhibit Fifteen

Friday, February 18, 2005

Yahoo! to buy stake in Indiatimes?

We have been hearing these murmurs for a few days now, but when you have a newspaper like The Financial Times’s Bombay correspondent Khozem Merchant also reporting it, one’s got to give it some attention.

Khozem’s report and our information has it that search engine-turned-comprehensive internt portal Yahoo! is in discussions with Times Internet Limited to acquire stake in the company and/or the Indiatimes portal.The Financial Times report quotes an unnamed senior exec at the company confirming the negotiations. Mediaah! learns that talks have been on with several investors including Yahoo! At the time of writing, the CEO, COO and CFO are said to be in Hong Kong. They have of course visited the United States, Japan and even China for discussions and many biggies have also visited them.

So is Yahoo! going to buy stake? The discussions are on, but we’ll be surprised if it’s just a minority stake, as in less than 10 per cent. The Times of India group can manage without minor mercies.
 

Exhibit Fourteen

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Mediaah! scoops, Business Standard licks!! R*ut*rs 'stake', Zee-Bhaskar jv stories in print

Don't tomtom your achievements, the wiseman said. We hate doing it. But it's only to underscore the fact that our stories are based on a reasonable degree of market intelligence and research that we write this. Today's Business Standard has two stories that take off from where we left. One, on the rumoured Zee TV-Dainikar Bhaskar tie-up to launch an English newspaper in Bombay, and the other that got us a legal notice and we were asked to delete (or else) the item from the site -- R*ut*rs picking up a 26 % stake in the proposed news, biz and curent affairs channel of the Ti#*s group.

So why are we starring and hashing alphabets? Because we don't think there's any point in getting into a legal tiff with the biggies. We don't have the resources to fight suits filed from Sikkim or the Andamans, though we are sure well-wishers there will oblige. They must appreciate constructive criticism and reportage of developments. It would be interesting to see if The Group sends a legal notice to BS given that the paper has done a few stories on it in the past - first on M*di*n*t, the second on a reviewer plagiarising and now this bit that may harm its business interests.

Back to the news in question: Zee-Bhaskar reportedly put an ad in Mid Day last week looking for field executives. No names were mentioned, just a large media group. Is there need for the Times group to worry if there's a new English paper in Bombay? Not at all. The people who will have to worry are the other morningers: the soon-to-be-launched Hindustan Times (interestingly, Zee’s new head of media marketing is ex-HT and was obviously privy to all of HT’s Bombay plans), Indian Express and Asian Age. There’s Free Press Journal too which is trying to make a dent with Sec D to Z, so that paper shouldn’t be worried at all.

We'll keep you posted on what happens (and who to apply to if there are any jobs going). Hum hain na!
 

Exhibit Thirteen

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Unfair! Bollywood says Awards nominations lowers Filmfare rep

While the Filmfare awards committee may have made amends with Sonu Nigam and credited him for Main Hoon Na, but the industry (including the magazine staffers) have been lampooning the nominations. We received two mails – one from a journalist and industry insider and another from a Times group staffer on the nominations:

1. They are poorly thought of, amateurish and incomplete Most of them revolve
around five-six films completely ignoring the 130-odd films that released in
2004

2. If they are popular awards, why has Aishwarya Rai been nominated for 'Raincoat' which was a flop and her performance was panned?
3. The nominations show some bias towards the Yashraj and SRK camp!
4. Some categories have five nominations, others have six. Shouldn’t there be a
standard?
5. Cult films like Dhoom which saw brilliant performances and direction get bad treatment at these awards
6. Is there no lyricist in India other than Javed Akhtar? Five nominations for Javed Akhtar of which three are for Veer-Zaara!!
7. Some names appear to have been added just to ensure that all ‘camps’ are covered.


However, we would like to add here that there are some cribs about every awards event each year. But with the stakes being so high and big monies from sponsorships (in the region of Rs 6-8 crore), the least the organisers can do is ensure a glitch-free event.

Also, the awards are NOT organised by an outside events company, but 360 degrees, which is part of the Times group and headed by A N Parigi who is also CEO of Radio Mirchi. While we were told that the BBC jv
was reluctant to have Filmfare staffers associated with a Manikchand-sponsored event, there are enough film resources within the Times empire in Bombay who are clued into films – Omar Qureshi, Jitesh Pillai and
several others -- who could have been consulted.

What upsets us most is that at least a couple of Bollywood biggies told us that if awards nominations lower the rep of the magazine, which is known for scandal-free content. In fact actor Aamir Khan has boycotted the event for many years because he believes that film magazines shouldn't be conducting cine awards.
 

Exhibit Twelve

Monday, February 14, 2005

Monday Memo: When the media tries to muzzle the media

It requires a great deal of character and maturity to face the glare from the media. And this is especially so when you are subjecting someone to constant scrutiny and criticism.

But that’s the media’s job: play watchdog along with its role of an information and entertainment resource. Mediaah! was set up in July 2003 with these three primary objectives: inform, entertain and watch. We didn’t take our last role very seriously, we didn’t want to bark at every thing that looked amiss. We didn’t have the wherewithal to do it, and that wasn’t our intent. However, we took pleasure in informing, do that with gentle doses of humour. Everyone took it in their stride.

However, while the media keeps subjecting others to criticism – and brand it constructive though it may often be pretty destructive, the media itself doesn’t take too kindly to criticism. Regrettably, and unlike the US and the UK, there aren’t too many in India who review the media and put each and every news item under the scanner.

On Thursday, we had got wind of a legal notice from our sources in the Bombay office. Funny, because rather than send a notice, the more logical thing to do would’ve been to call or email. Tell us that x, y and z items aren’t in good taste or whatever. Instead they chose to take us on, and sent a mail on Friday to the founder of this site (and owner of the domain name) who promptly forwarded it to us. We replied to the notice, apologised since it was not our objective to take on a biggie, followed it up with a couple of calls to the lawyer’s office, but haven’t got a reply yet. We had a hit a Saturday, a holiday.

We hope the matter is forgotten now, and we can start life afresh, but from what it appears, one of the objectives of the notice was also to have us back off. We won't. Agreed, we have been carrying too much on a single entity for a while, but that’s because there’s too much happening there, and it’s the largest media group in the country.

It’s just like why a newspaper reports on the Union government so much and not about a Panchayat when the latter is also very active.

We messaged a few friends who include senior editors and publishers, technology evangelists, marketing professionals, cybercrime experts and the like. Some of who we are in touch with, others not so regular, and a few people who we think are our well-wishers. Save a handful who didn’t reply, all of them said our show must go on. An evangelist and one of the most successful internet professionals in the country told us that we must apologise and continue. “Can’t afford fight at this stage. Site is too good and important to be killed”. A top marketing pro at one of India’s biggest FMCGs and a big advertiser with the notice-sender said: Don’t let them bully you, fight them! A journo and law expert said: Your apology seems correctly worded. I hope the matter ends here. I really think give up Mediaah... such battles cannot be fought alone. Another publisher asked us matter-of-factly: What’s your long-term objective?

It’s in the interest of media organisations such as those who hate us to have sites like Mediaah! live on. We believe we are responsible, and aren’t unfair. Imagine if someone would set up a hate blog, and take on the high and mighty. So, while a Mediaah! can be forced to back off, the spirit may turn venomous and re-emerge in tens of them who are extremely scathing and vicious. Being anonymous, sending legal notices will also be tough.

All attempts to muzzle the media in the past have backfired. In our case, we don’t have the resources to ‘unite’ mediapersons from across the country. However, it is important that media entities accept the new realities of life. They must appreciate that unlike the good old days, each action will now always be under the scanner. Also: just as they carry news of families splitting or company developments before they are made public, Mediaah! too can subject them to the same. Is it in public interest? This bit can be argued for and against, but it’s important that we learn to take criticism and news on us in the right spirit.

Times are a-changing. Our readership is a fraction of what the biggies are, so we can cause them no real harm. But that doesn’t mean that observers like Mediaah! can be made to shut up.

As the title suggests, Monday Memo appears every Monday. Email comments at mail@mediaah.com
 

Exhibit Eleven

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Apology

This refers to the item ‘Times to tie up with Reuters for news. Name and last-minute hiccup over Sunil Lulla appt to be resolved’ that appeared on Mediaah! on Thursday, February 10, 2005.

We have received a legal notice from Mr Rajnish M Singh, Advocate, on behalf of his client, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, saying that the item harmed the reputation and goodwill of his client. That was not the intent of the news item and not the intent of Mediaah!

In his letter, Mr Singh has also said that the item is totally baseless and has no substance or truth in it.

While Mediaah! would stand by the information published, Mediaah! apologises to Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd and has deleted the abovementioned item with immediate effect.
 

Exhibit Ten

Friday, February 11, 2005

25 Days of Profit. Mediaah! verdict: CNBC-TV 18 scores, Profit must shed 'We know it all' tag

We were supposed to post this a few days back, but didn’t because despite seeing a good amount of both channels, we wanted to be doubly sure of what we think is the reason why one scores over the other.

Okay, here goes:

On Day 25 of NDTV Profit's existence (it launched on Jan 17), Mediaah! feels CNBC-TV18 is the better channel.

Several reasons:

1. CNBC-TV18 (CT) is to business and corporate affairs, what NDTV is to general news. The ad blitz that NDTV has several years of experience doesn’t hold water – its experience was restricted to Budget analyses in the early days, so the loads of experience

2. Vikram Chandra, Profit’s main man, is a disappointment. He has been thus for a bit, like Sreenivasan Jain, NDTV’s Bombay bureau chief. Vikram may have been a great presenter once upon a time, but now he isn’t.
What helps CT score is that even the top guy, Raghav Bahl, is extremely modest while interviewing (like Prannoy Roy, who has turned awful in newsanchoring though). Other visible CT faces – Udayan Mukherjee and Menka Doshi – are excellent.

2. Let’s face it, stockmarket doesn’t always behave scientifically. With due respects to technical analysts etc, there are times when the market moves up or down for the smallest of rumours or sentiments. It is hence difficult for both both CT and Profit to predict market trends. However, in the crucial trade hour telecast, CT scores.

3. CT and Profit were apparently rushing to score brownie points over airing quarterly results. Like the cricket board charges for match coverage, perhaps an Infosys, Reliance and Wipro must even consider charging these two moneis for the coverage of their results and annual general meetings.

4. NDTV Profit’s studio ambience is brighter, but it will take time for it to grow on us. Right now, the diehard business and market community we spoke with believe that CNBC-TV 18 scores. Unlike the younger set, these folks won't switch loyalties overnight.

NDTV sources may boast of higher numbers, and CNBC-TV18 can counter it, but eventually it’s not just numbers alone, but the programming quality that will dictate the future of the channels.
 

Exhibit Nine

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Koshish on for non-tobacco, aboveboard sponsor for Filmfare

Now that Manikchand has gone off as the sponsor, perhaps the Filmfare magazine staffers will be allowed to work on the awards, at least in terms of interacting with stars etc. The BBC apparently had an issue with the magazine staff getting associated with an awards event that had a sponsor dealing with tobacco as well as linked to problems with law-enforcers.

Our correspondents in Times (ok,ok, not correspondents… just informers) say koshish is on for a non-tobacco, aboveboard BBC-friendly sponsor. Perhaps they’ll get someone in by the weekend…
 

Exhibit Eight

This was the item om the rumor about the TOI's tie up with Reuters for news, which also mentioned Sunil Lulla. Unfortunately this had already been deleted from Mediaah before we could get our hands on it. Anybody who has a copy, please feel free to post it in the comments.
 

Exhibit Seven

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Don’t allow Filmfare Awards to happen, Shiv Sena tells Mah govt. Deputy CM Patil agrees, says Manikchand should not be associated with awards

All these years of sucking up to Bhabhiji Smita Thackeray have been for naught.

According to a report on Rediff.com, the Shiv Sena yesterday asked the Maharashtra government to “withhold permission” to the holding of the Filmfare Awards sponsored by the Manikchand group in view of the “alleged links” of the latter’s chief with the underworld.

“The owner of Manikchand group, Rasiklal Dhariwal, is accused of having connections with the underworld and he is a traitor who has fled the country," leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly and former Chief Minister Narayan Rane told reporters in Mumbai, Rediff reports..

What’s more important is that Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister, R R Patil, who btw has a Surf Excel-clean image in the State, has backed the Sena claim. "We are of the opinion that name of Manikchand should not be associated with Filmfare awards."


What next now?


1. Filmfare uses the Bhabhiji card. Having invited her to present at least one big award every year, she can take the bosses to Saheb, Bal T. He may just give in.

2. The chief organiser of the show, A N Parigi, is the ‘samdhi’ of Suresh Kalmadi, Pune MP and head of the Indian Olympic Committee (Parigi’s son is married to Kalmadi’s brother’s daughter). So Mr P can get Mr K to put in a good word with Madame Sonia and do the needful

3. The BBC is part-owner of the Filmfare brand. Mr Vineet Jain could speak to the BBC who in turn could get Tony Blair and George Bush as well as their friends in the United Nations to influence India to not cancel the awards. Mr Narayan Rane and Mr R R Patil will get a fellowship to study the working of local governments in 10 cities of the United States and United Kingdom – including miscellaneous tourist spots like Disney, Universal Studios, Niagra Falls, Buckingham Palace and Las Vegas. A special screening of Shwaas, the movie which is the Pride of Maharashtra, will also be organised for the White House and House of Commons.

4. Think of a 360 degree idea for this year’s Filmfare Awards. Conduct it in Bhutan. No one will crib there, and the King will only to be happy given the tourism potential.

Okay, enuff of creative writing. We think the Filmfare Awards organisers are in a spot. It should be interesting to see how Messrs Jain, Parigi and Co draw up the screenplay for this rather slippery soap opera.
 

Exhibit Six

Friday, January 21, 2005

Rapid Fire a la K Jo:
Times for reading edit or ads? Prannoy Roy or Prem Tarneja?


It’s one of our favourite programmes on telly. We wouldn’t like his sing-song demeanour earlier, but the show’s super. Especially the one which had Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherjee… top class!

We’re referring to Koffee With Karan on Star World, and what we are presenting you now is a take-off on the Rapid Fire round with special ref to our business. While reading this, ‘hear’ Karan Johar asking the questions… it’ll give you the right feel.

Times of India for reading editorial content or the ads?
Ads. They want us to read them… the edit exists to make the ads seen and acted upon.

India Today or Outlook?
Outlook. India Today is a magazine that everyone buys, but few read.

BusinessWorld or Business Today?
Both. BusinessWorld because it comes every week, but we like some of the features in BT

Shekhar Bhatia as editor of Hindustan Times or Times of India?
HT

Vir Sanghvi as editor, writer or anchor?
Writer, esp Rude Food. He’s a decent anchor, but a far, far better writer.

NDTV Profit or CNBC-TV 18?
So far: CNBC-TV18

Business Standard or Financial Express?
BS

Times Delhi or HT Delhi
HT Delhi

Rediff or Indiatimes?
Rediff for news, Indiatimes for everything else

NDTV 24x7 v/s Headlines Today?
NDTV 24x7 of course.

Headlines Today or Doordarshan News?
DD News

Headlines Today or your cable news channel?
Cable channel

Headlines Today or switch off TV?
Switch off of course… don’t waste electricity

Tehelka print or Tehelka internet?
Economic & Political Weekly

Bachi Karkaria or Jug Suraiya?
Bachi

Most irritating anchor: Karan Thapar or Barkha Dutt?
Barkha Dutt

Best newsreader: Prannoy Roy or Prem Tarneja?
Prem Tarneja

Prem Tarneja is a cartoon character…you know that?
Yes, he’s better

Medianet or Advertorials?
Neither. Advertorials which say they are advertorials

Most boring read: India Today or Business India?
Both

Star News or Zee News?
Star News

Aaj Tak or Star News?
Aaj Tak

Aaj Tak or NDTV India?
Aaj Tak

NDTV India or NDTV 24x7?
24x7

Femina or Savvy?
Femina

Femina or Cosmopolitan?
Cosmo

Femina or Elle?
Elle

Femina or Seventeen India?
Seventeen

Femina or Headlines Today?
Neither, can you puhleez move on?

Night Out or Boomtown Rap?
Night Out (on 24x7)

Harsha Bhogle or Charu Sharma?
Harsha Bhogle

Charu Sharma or Lalu Prasad Yadav?
Lalu Prasad Yadav

Charu Sharma or K Srikkanth?
Charu Sharma

Charu Sharma or Item Songs on TV?
Item Songs on TV

Charu Sharma isn’t that bad!
Next question?

Well, that’s what we have for today… we’ll be back again soon with another round of Rapid Fire.
 

Exhibit Five

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Is Jojo going to be the new Times editor?

The grapevine has it that Jaideep 'Jojo' Bose, editor of The Economic Times, is tipped to be the new executive editor of The Times of India.

Although a section of the ET crowd we spoke to said that Jojo vehemently denied the possibility, the corridors of power at the premier pinky have been speaking about this in more than hushed voices. While his name has been thrown up several times in the past, Jaideep is known to be opposed to moving to Delhi.

One insider we spoke to joked that if Jojo accepts the offer, it could mean difficult times for the suits. The reason? "He's got spine." If the move does happen, Mediaah! would welcome it, and the site can fade away resting assured that the paper is in safe(r) hands.

What The Times of India needs is an editor who is worldly wise (and not a prude), appreciates the needs of a brand and packaging of a newspaper, backs his staff and has the confidence of both the editorial, marketing and spaceselling team without compromising on the core editorial values. With due respect to Messrs Girilal Jain, Dileep Padgaonkar and Shekhar Bhatia, they failed to do the above, and as a result, the Times editor got majorly devalued in his own office. If an editor like Jaideep Bose takes over, you can be certain that there will be much happiness in newsrooms.
 

Exhibit Four

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Last evening @ TV Today: 3 biggies quit Aaj Tak, 2 leave Headlines Today. Uday Shankar "definitely going". Elsewhere: Vineet J and Bachi walk the ramp

We had announced that we won't be producing an update on Saturdays, but this is a mini-edition to update you on two happenings.

One, about Uday Shankar. News director at Aaj Tak, going to Star News at the same position. The buzz is right, we were told by a senior producer... he is "definitely going".

Uday, btw, is part of the senior management at TV Today Network, and his name figures in the prospectus (the draft at least) of the company when it went in for an IPO last month. For the record, he's a little over 40, has worked at Sahara, SAB TV, Zee News and The Times of India. He holds a master's in economic history has done a PG diploma in journalism.and a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism (info sourced from the TV Today offer document).

Prasar Bharati CEO K S Sarma publicly announced on Thursday that a few people from Aaj Tak were joining Doordardarshan News. Last evening, three senior staffers in the channel are said to have put in their papers. Two have left Headlines Today, reportedly so "disgusted" that one of them has quit without even having a job in hand.

We asked a few Aaj Tak hands, specifically in Delhi, if Uday's going will make a difference to the channel? The reply we got was a firm "no", but an equally firm "yes". Yes, because being the boss, he held the channel together and was a good guide to the freshers in the organisation. And no, because the show will go on nevertheless, and a successor has been indentified.

The other bit that we heard of is about a party held last evening to celebrate The Times of India Delhi's numero uno status. Guess who walked the ramp? Managing Director Vineet Jain and Resident Editor Bachi Karkaria. There was also an excellent display of fireworks.
 

Exhibit Three

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Shocker! Times to allow advertising on edit page and sell Medianet

Buoyed by the response the main edit page article on Aventis that The Times of India carried earlier this year, the newspaper has taken a dramatic decision of allowing advertising on its edit page as well as allowing Medianet to get active with some of the content on the page.

According to the draft of a circular that we received in the wee hours of today, the decision will be effected. It took a few days of persuasion preceded by a presentation done by the corporate team of the newspaper, before vice chairman Samir Jain asked for the circular to be sent. Chairperson Indu Jain was also reportedly consulted, and so were all the Sankaracharyas and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Meanwhile, Mediaah! was privy to the entire discussion that was held in the boardroom of The Times of India in Delhi late on December 30. A senior executive present had carried a mini digital recorder that looks like a pen, but can record conversations up to two hours, and can be saved in .wav files and even transcribed through special software.

Read on till the end, because there's a lot that can be read between the lines, and especially in the final paragraphs. We have edited the conversation and will carry only relevant portions.

(present at the meeting. Clockwise from the head of the table: Samir Jain (SJ), Vineet Jain (VJ), Pradeep Guha (PG), Rahul Kansal (RK), Ravi Dhariwal (RD), Jug Suraiya (Jug), Dina Vakil (Dina), Bachi Karkaria (Bachi), Arun Arora (AA) and Vijay Jindal (Jindal).

The meeting started with the Gayatri Mantra CD being played. Samir Jain started chanting loudly, and the others followed. He then signalled to Arun Arora that the music volume can be lowered, and asked for some other devotional music from the Times Music stable to be played in the background.

SJ: So Jindalsaab, what's the agenda?

Jindal then pulled out a patti folder and gives to the Jain brothers and passed on the rest to AA with a request to circulate.

RD took over.

RD: We had this study conducted across 27 focus groups across all our editions on the editorial page of the newspaper and had some interesting findings

Bachi: But that's alright Ravi, the edit page is the conscience of the paper. Right, Jug?

Dina: Yes, and how many people read the ads, one can argue. I remember a United Nations study conducted in Geneva that said that the media in third world countries must carry the editorial page

Sensing some discord, Rahul Kansal looks at Dina and says:

RK: You have a point, Dina. The editorial page does indeed play a vital role. But in the markets where Jug has consented to not carry the editorial page, the reader hasn't missed anything. In fact our readership growth curve on Page 14c of the dossier will show how time spent on the paper has actually gone up in editions with no edit page

Jug: Not consented, Rahul, relented

Bachi gesticulates at Pradeep Guha, and ask him to speak:

PG: The objective is to keep innovating, and not assume too much. We will not effect anything drastic, but it is important to note that the reader has changed

RD: Change is the word, Pradeep. And as your Ad Asia theme was Break the Rules


Vineet Jain is visibly amused, he looks towards Jindal and asks:

VJ: Do we really know the reader?

Jindal: Yes, if you look at some of what my team has come up with.

He asks for the TV to be switched on and lights be dimmed to see the film

Jindal: Please everyone please see these are real readers

Jug (under his breath): How do we know it is not staged?

Bachi and Dina were seen trying to control their laughter.

All along, Samir Jain looked at the ceiling. More than the ceiling, he observed one of the light bulbs in the centre. And quietly pencilled some notes on a piece of paper. He asked for the music volume to be raised a bit.

I was looking at that lamp and wondering if any of us knew whether it was really needed.

Every one nodded in agreement. He then ask the peon to switch off the centrepiece. Three people go to do the same thing.

PG and RK look at each other and smile. Jindal does a thumbs up sign to VJ.

SJ: The issue is that we don't even question its utility.

At this Ravi Dhariwal said a team from IIT Delhi had done a study on the light intensity before and after a particular bulb was switched off. And they said there was no difference to the light levels in the entire room.

Jug (under his breath): I know what the conclusion is... I know it! I know it!

Bachi: Yes, of course, that's unfortunate, but I'm sure I can get a reporter to do a story on this, and how vital electricity can be saved if one light bulb in each Indian household is switched off.

Samir Jain got up at this point. The others also wanted to do that, but he asked them to stay seated.

SJ: You've made a valid point (looking at Bachi). One bulb going can save a lot of electricity. Similarly one page reduced can save us a lot of money.

Ravi Dhariwal pulls out his calculator at this point, and mouths a number to Vineet Jain

VJ: But why can't we accept advertising on this page? Why can't we ask our friends at Medianet to chip in?

RD: Oh, yes, they can do it

VJ: We will retain the page, generate some revenues and get some purposeful content

Jug: But, Mr Jain, you can't have any Karol Bagh shopkeeper or party-type being interviewed?

RD: They are your readers, aren't they?

Jug: Of course they are, but we have to have some standards

Samir Jain then asked everyone to be quiet.

Jindal: VC has spoken to Mataji, she is okay with it. We also met the Sankaracharyas recently, and they think the brand is not diluted. Sri Sri Ravishankar loved the idea, especially when he was told the emphasis is on concentrating on real issues of the nation.

Jug: So you will now have an interview with all those Medianet types?

RD: I think we should be open to new ideas

Samir Jain: So is this final? By when do you want to introduce this, Jug?

Jug: It's all up to Ravi (looking at Ravi Dhariwal)

RD: How about January 14, it's an auspicious day - Sankranti and Pongal

Jug (under his breath): Oh, yes, it's appropriate that from Sankranti we get into kite-flying

Samir Jain got up and said Namaste to all. Everyone walked out with their filofaxes and spiral pads. Jindal then muttered in Jug's ear:
"Everything you said under your breath was recorded, my friend."

Jug: Bugged?

Jindal: No, just taking minutes of the meeting. Also, on flying kites, what do you think you'll are doing now?

He then rushed ahead and walked with Samir Jain to his car.

Thankfully, hic, this meeting didn't happen and the decision to allow advertising and/or Medianet hasn't taken place though one often wonders whether the interviews on the edit page are part of an orchestrated campaign like the Karisma Kapoor one at the time the serial Karishma took off on Sahara with a huge blitz in the paper.

What you read above was an April Fool's Joke fast forwarded to January 1 to get you off your hangover and 'morning after' grogginess. Enjoy! Have a great 2004!
 

Exhibit Two

November 21 2003

Is Bachi also leaving The Times of India?

Time House in the capital has been buzzing with rumours that resident editor and one of India's best known journalists, Bachi Karkaria, has put in her papers. Bachi had joined the Times earlier this year from Mid Day where she was editorial director. Thanks to Bachi, there is said to have been a marked change in the Times Delhi edition with the desired soft treatment of hard news and word play in headlines.

If she has indeed quit, will she also move to Hindustan Times like editor Shekhar Bhatia? Well, for three years (when she was with Mid Day), her column would appear in HT, so there's obviously an old relationship with that paper.

Watch this space for more.
 

Exhibit One

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Stop this bak-bak about reader rules, Bachi. Times prostitutes content!

The blood boils when you have a seasoned and senior journalist like Bachi Karkaria talking about how the reader rules at Times. While Mediaah! went to town yesterday congratulating the newspaper and praising the good work done by its people and the vision of vc Samir Jain, we don't think the paper should be allowed to get away with all the bakbakaria doled out.

First, a bit of background. Bachi Karkaria, resident editor of The Times of India Delhi, was until recently editorial director of Mid Day Multimedia. She had a three-year stint there, and while at Mid Day, her weekly column would appear in Hindustan Times, New Delhi. Nothing wrong with all of that, except that it helps put things in perspective. Agreed, Bachi's track record in Times has been terrific, and even earlier at The Statesman, but all of that is too much in the past. Right now, she's RE of Times Delhi, and presiding over a newspaper that's the toast of the country.

However, while we concede that the newspaper was the first mainline national daily that befriended froth and features in a big way, it has also consistently not cared a damn about ethics. Other than near-rampant junketeering and no practised policy on accepting freebies, Medianet is a classic case of prostitution of journalism, and content that is sold at a price is being dished out as editorial as if it were produced by its editorial team.

We aren't acclaimed wordsmiths like Bachi, so we leave her to decide on how to explain Medianet to Times readers. Rather crudely, we'd call it prostitution of journalism. Hey, so what does this make the editor of the newspaper?

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