Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Fall

People have mailed me and a couple have called me to ask why I did not write about M.J Akbar's removal or sacking whatever you call it from The Asian Age. The reason I did not write anything is because I did not have much of an opinion on the matter - even though Khushwant Singh and Rahul Singh did have a very strong opinion on the issue. What I was not terribly surprised about was the sudden fall from grace of two of Aveek-Babu's 'blue eyed boys' - two erstwhile and extremely overhyped editors from the ABP group out.
However, none of these two men were India's most powerful editor - who strangely enough is another old ABP hand - in fact, the number of ex-ABP hands in the top echelons of Indian journalism today - whether you call it a Calcutta/Bengali cabal or you don't is surprising - Jojo is ex-Telegraph also which is the point I'm making. But you know one good thing about this sudden fall from grace is that the 'Cult of the Editor' is dying out - you only have Prabhu and Vinod who are members of the Old Guard is any position of power in print media organisations who have a 'Cult' so to speak around them. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge anybody their cult, but I would advise people to watch Apocalypse Now and the final set of scenes when Captain Willard finds Colonel Kurtz in the jungle.

Cults are dangerous things and the passing of the cult is good for Indian journalism, not bad for it. The anonymous editor, or the behind the scenes editor whose job is to improve the product rather than himself is a good thing for print. Yes, the editor should be well known, but the moment the editor becomes a celebrity, there is more than a faint degree of compromise - you lose objectivity when you make the news about you rather than do the job you are supposed to do - which is to put together a newspaper or a newsmagazine for your readers and make sure one hell of a lot of readers read it. I still think Jojo is the best editor of his generation, because his paper gets read and would not die if other media organisations and PR agencies stopped subscribing to it.
The problem is that with the passing of the cult in print journalism, you have the birth of the cult, or so people would like to believe in TV journalism. Most of those cults are over-hormoned young Indian men playing out their fantasies with various televsion anchorettes - look at this, it's scary - and it appears that Nidhi Razdan is the most popular female news anchor in India. No comments there, but some of these groups are disturbing! But, the new Headlines Today, which has very high rotation on AXN for some strange reason, brings out that fact pretty humourously.
I don't know, and I'm sure there will be comments accusing me of jealousy (I'm 29 goddamnit!) or wishing I had a cult myself. Cults lead to power and power corrupts. I have seen that first-hand, god knows I have seen that first-hand. I know it is easier saying something than doing it - like me saying that an upcoming holiday to Bangkok will not involve 'interesting' sideshows. You never know until you get there do you.
In other news - a quick roundup at EchTee, how could I do a post without mentioning them - there seems to be a lot of activity and several middle-level correspondents are being dispatched across the world on international assignments. Including one man who, despite being a very clever man has never written a word.And onme year after ToI decided to put a man in Beijing, EchTee is following suit, which is a good thing because I think Saibal has done a fairly decent job in China for the Times. There is also some activity at the top, which is rather ridiculous. If anyone in management reads this blog, guys, please get your act together.
Indian media coverage of the events in Tibet are surprisingly poor considering that the Dalai Lama sits in McLeodganj and China is the big neighbour - and the Hindu's coverage has been completely in line with the Chinese politbureau - check out The Chindu and this humourous post. I really am wishing that the Times trashes the Hindu in Chennai - the Times launches on April 14th, which is certain (Sunil Nair from ToI Mumbai has been appointed Editor), hopefully ToI has learnt from their disasterous Hyderabad launch where they got trashed by an Asian Age facsimilie. Weirdly enough, the Times' failure in Hyderabad is what gave ram reddy the muscle to buy off the rest of the Asian Age franchisees and finally kick out Akbar - see everything is interconnected. By the way, the name of DC's new business paper is 'The Financial Chronicle' - hopefully it will have a better readership than the other paper with Financial in its name.
Talking about another favourite topic of this blog - NewsX's launch which is scheduled for March 28 as a 'soft launch' - ask the anchors to pronounce lingerie to get an idea what you will see!
Our obsession with Pakistan among our neighbours is a bit much. We have whacked out states all around us - Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are in various states of anarchy and total media meltdown - though nothing beats the makldives when it comes to media repression though Sri Lanka is coming close of late. But the Indian media is in almost total radio silence, more concerned about rakhi Sawant's new item number than global geopolitics. What happens in Tibet is crucial because thats where a lot of our water comes from, but other than long, boring edits, we don't really care.
What I personally find fascinating about the Tibet events is final proof of this being the Nokia revolution. China has more mobile users than any other country and makes probably half of the world's phones every year. Now that phones all have cameras that can take standard-def broadcast videos, you are seeing a lot more images than you ever did than from Tiananmen. What is going on is a media war and the mobile phone is playing such an important role in it, I'm amazed. I don't think people have thought long and hard about the way the mobile phone, not the PC will change media. Maybe we need to do that, soon.


Anonymous said...

It's great that you highlighted the father-son defence of MJ Akbar. How can journalists tomtom successes in circulation during the Emergency -- and Akbar's help in achieving that -- as some sort of heroic deed? newspapers were gagged, oppositio jailed without trial and this father-son duo choose instead to castigate the Jains for what happened thereafter? Were either Illustrated Weekly or Readers Digest (which they edited respectively) were hardly beacons of fearless journalism. And Akbar should cringe at the idea that he was forged from this metal....

Anonymous said...

Lingerie. Utah, Ohio, Aussies. March 29th.

Abhinandan said...

Too much is being made out of MJ Akbar's episode. The picture that is being presented is far from the actual truth. The whole episode of how he got the news of his removal through as SMS is a ploy that everyone plays so as to achieve what can be termed as a 'dramatic ending'.

Akbar himself was trying for the Rajya Sabha membership from Bihar and Nitish Kumar 'almost' made sure that he got through but as they say 'there is many a slip between the cup and the lip'. Akbar was one time a staunch Congressi and now he also shifted his loyalty to BJP.

Much less is reported and made out of the actual behind the scene show. As for Nidhi Razdan, being good looking always helps but it's more helpful if your father is the CEO of India's premier news agency.

Anonymous said...

Wow Soft Launch for NewsX already? That was quick specially after all the exits, thought they would take a year to recover from that. Any idea what avirook, nag and all are doing?

Anonymous said...

Interesting Reading:

STAR TV to shell out more money to IT Department

The channels of Star Television India Private Limited will have to shell out more money to the Income Tax (IT) Department than it has offered to pay. The Bombay High Court on Wednesday admitted the appeal filed by the IT Department against the order of the Settlement Commission allowing Star Group to pay Rs 1,300 crore and settle the matter.

Mohan Parasaran and Beni Chatterji, counsel for IT, said that the Star Group disclosed Rs 150 crore later. Hence their first application was not true and did not give full disclosure, said Chatterji.

“If their entire revenue was considered then their dues would be over Rs 2,600 crore plus interest plus penalty. Hence the matter should not be settled by the Settlement Commission,” argued Chatterji.

There were numerous litigations pending against the Star Group with the IT Department with regard to taxable income of the 11 channels. The channels have not paid the income tax, stating that all of them are registered in the British Virgin Islands.

However, the IT department claimed that monies were being transferred from India. The Indian unit is collecting revenue to be transferred abroad, which ought to have been deducted as TDS as per the IT Act.

The group approached the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), which upheld the claim of the IT Department. The group approached the HC against the order of the ITAT.

Meanwhile, the group made an application before the Settlement Commission to settle the entire issue by offering to pay tax, which was 29 per cent of the revenue that was sent abroad.

According to Star, they had transferred Rs 5,000 crore abroad in July 2007 and were willing to pay Rs 1,300 crore. The Settlement Commission admitted the Star’s application, whereby the group would be let off after paying a little over Rs 1,300 crore.

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Anonymous said...

hey guys...whatever has been said...Caught a glimpse of News X...looks neat