Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stock Options

With news emerging that Raghav and Harish shooting down a Bennett plan for a 'no-poach' agreement, which is a smart move and also prevents the Times from being anti-competitive because I feel that the BCCL-HT Media deal should be refered to the MRTPC it has also emerged that the TV18 promoters might not actually hold too much of a stake in the new FT JV. It appears that while Pearson will hold 26%, TV18 (or any holding company) will hold just 15% and the journalists will hold 20%. The balance will be held by 'investors' and the public once the company is up and running. Now, as to the question why people are leaving, the sums of money assured are rumoured to be fantastic, but packages at the top are around Rs 2 crore annually with around Rs 1 crore 'sign-up'. Now, some numbers are fantastic, but those are even higher than what the senior guys at FT earn. Oh, and Papermint is so scared of the potential new scenario that they've given massive raises all around, losses be damned.
Now, why are all these top folks leaving? The story some will hear is about 'Private Treaties' and 'Honest Journalism'. Now, 'Honest Journalism' does not exist, but Private Treaties is a problem and SJ who treats managers like gold, has watched in amazement as some of his Private Treaties staff has created a Rs 2000 crore industry out of selling space, more money than they would have ever earned through advertising. The impact of Private Treaties is already evident in The Economic Times, and particularly their company pages which have become massive plugs. A Private Treaties 'client' who is a senior from college whom I met recently told me that this was the best way to get publicity for little cost and the amount of equity involved was miniscule, even though could be worth a ton if the company went public with a big-bang IPO. Sure enough, he claimed Private Treaties worked for him.
And the plans the Treaties folks have for Times is rather dramatic, I saw a PowerPoint recently which was rather frightening and will try and most a few screens from that if I can. However, this saga is not over as yet but the die has been cast.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I'm back...

Sorry, I was away on a trip out of the heat, getting a final series of stamps on my passport before it has to be renewed. This blog has not been 'shut down' by editors orders though ed claims blog is taking too much of my time, which may be correct. Anyway, I'm back now and here are some updates.
According to the grapevine, Jojo IS actually leaving - though no formal papers have been signed he is not only leaving but dragging around 15 senior editors from the Times and ET with him along with a posse of very good reporters. Plus, why did HT's last Executive Editor actually leave, was it because one video clip got released into the wild along with an email chat transcript? And what has been happening at Papermint in the RN-RS equation, who is exactly what now?
And the big news, now that Sanjaya Baru has finally decided to move on, his position will be taken over by The Hindu's current Political Editor Harish Khare and his position might be willed by Sid Vardharajan. Plus, and this is news about one of this blog's favourite personalities, The V is back in play and will be rewarded for years of unswerving loyalty to Italy (which is a frikkin' expensive but gorgeous country) by being made Chairman of Prasar Bharti.
Go figure!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

To quell rumours...

I've heard some fantastic numbers being quoted - some people are saying that an editor whose next move isn't quite clear is being offered a massive 10 large plus a sea-facing apartment in Worli. Others are saying that the man will get a 10-15 per cent stake in said 'new' newspaper. This is on top of the huge over-estimations of his current salary, which are being bandied at between 4-5 large. 
Now, we are still not clear if said Editor is moving out of current place of employment. What we do know is that a bunch of Editors from said place of employment are going out of town for an 'Editors Retreat' near the capital for the next few days. Other Editors names have now also started to do the rounds to take over at old place/new place depending on what decision is made.
PS : Writing blog posts in Opera are not easy, why am I using this browser?
In other news, several senior advocates/politicians have recently been noticing the rise of a young (very well-connected) gentleman who has become of the biggest 'fixers' in Delhi. This rise has upset some of the older 'fixers' in town. Watch this space.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Whats Up?

Erm, I might need to be very tangential over here, but to put things quite simply to the best of my knowledge things are still very fluid. Nothing has been decided as yet.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A conspiracy of silence

"Tui na, shob kichu tor bloge likhe deesh" - that is Bangla for "Bugger, you write everything on your blog."
Therefore in exchange for blog silence, temporary blog silence I assure you, I have been informed of what is really going on in Mumbai. It suffices to say that everything is not as cut and dry as it seems - we live in interesting times! Rest assured that you will get to hear of the latest developments shortly.
Now, to the IPL, which completely deserves the hype it is getting. So what if the Delhi Police can't figure out how to manage traffic in and out of Feroze Shah Kotla, the light-towers looked wonderful in the stadium. And so what if the DDCA does not realise that a match without any announcements of who is batting or bowling really does not work, especially if the scoreboard is a malfunctioning unit (forcing us to check the cricinfo site between overs to figure out what was going on), this is a revolution. Now, my loyalties are town between my city - Delhi and the parochial Bong choice, which would be the extremely glam Kolkata team - the hidden story yesterday was Rahul G's attendance - which almost confirms that SRK will be campaigning for the Congress come 2009. They might need him since food prices are going through the roof, and the Bharat Nirman adverts during cricket may not work - where on earth is the bijli?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Going, going...

Yesterday during lunch I got the first of several SMSes alerting me that Jaideep Bose a.k.a Jojo, Executive Editor, Times of India is leaving for greener pastures - the reports are still conflicting some say to Star to launch Star's new newspaper/English news channel, others said he was moving to launch Raghav Behl's new business newspaper which has a tie-up with The Financial Times. Mint is jumping the gun and even writing a story about this tomorrow where Jojo has supposedly 'not denied' the rumours. Alongside that several other top ToI editors are rumoured to be quitting and joining 'other' (strangely un-named) places.
I may be wrong here, but I would go out on a limb and say that Sameer Jain is not in any danger of losing his top editorial staff. I am not sure that this is a 'posturing' game to increase salaries dramatically, but after all these folks have spent the greater part of the last three months trying to put together the Chennai product, and a decent product at that, I am not so sure they would leave. I mean there is something to be said about leaving 'on a high', but I have this suspicion that there is unfinished business to be finished at the Times.
As I said, I may be very wrong, but many of the people spreading the rumours have gotten it wrong several times before, but I am not at all sure about this. Be assured that you will hear more soon.


While the capital yesterday endured a police state scenario for the Olympic Torch Relay (which was only watched by policemen) which this author has not seen in living memory – and that includes the chaos that ensued following Rajiv Gandhi’s murder or the insanity that precedes Independence Day and Republic Day, Bombay was agog about how two-failed actors had taken a rag for a ride. Now, I believe the media should have boycotted the evening function and that both actors possibly do not realise the enormity of what they have done, and their reputations will probably be shot at every possible opportunity now, but none the less.

While the media is now questioning motives, who is to blame? The reporter evidently did all his groundwork, called up both parties to check the story and can 'technically' be the victim over here, my question is why was this on Page 1 in the first place? I want to know who the PR chap was who thought of the idea, because this will have blowback!

Anyway that said, a well-orchestrated con-job can catch out many journalists - The Smoking Gun exposed Akon - singer of that horrible track 'Smack That' as being a fraud but for years no-one questioned the guy. Now Akon is a lot bigger star that these two failing Bollywood ex-stars (well, one was never a star) so will this ruin his reputation. Yes, it will.

We'll forget about this story soon because the Indian Premier League starts today, and after all non-boycotts have been resolved, let's see how it turns out. I've decided to go watch the first game at the newly floodlit Kotla tomorrow, so I'll report from that.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


So what exactly is going on, resignations are being used as contract negotiation tools and money as the other, and big, big money mind you. Is the mythical notion of 'honest journalism' being made into (a mythical) sacrificial lamb? People do know what is going on, but like a good game of Poker, the cards are being kept very close to everyone's chests. I still don't know if people are leaving or not leaving, and do not want to jump the gun, because things might still take a dramatic turn or get very messy. And we are not just talking about print, in the last two days two very senior anchors - marquee faces even have also put in their papers to play the same game.
All I do know is that, as I said many months ago, the Bus Rapid Transit corridor is a stinking pile of rubbish that ruins my daily commute. Little wonder that the matter today was berated in Parliament!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How to save face!

The funny thing with having a competitive news industry is that sometimes stories that appear in rival publications or television channels are almost drowned out. Unless of course the break is too big to ignore, when most rival papers just shrug and start follow-up reporting. Like this break by the Times of India yesterday. This story deserved to be a flyer and yesterday every TV channel was agog with the news, and Priyanka even went on record saying she 'did visit' Nalini in jail. So therefore this headline in The People's Daily of Chennai was bewildering. Personally, I thought it stank of sour grapes, but this headline implies that the 'First Daughter' of the country is a liar. The body copy is more rational, but the headline is worse. But then again, this is the People's Daily which insists that the Dalai Lama clique is guilty of terrorism and that we should play softy-softy with the Naxals. But of course, there is this Sunday ET headline which contradicts itself - growing during a recession? Aren't growth and recession mutually exclusive - this is economics no?
There has been a long and interesting history of how to save face when you miss a story and your editor calls you in to explain. There is the patented ToI/ET method, which I remember was told to me many years ago by a women who was then in ET - "If it has not appeared in ET, it isn't news", in response to why she lifted a story I had done for HT a month ago. Thankfully, said reporter isn't in ET anymore. There is the 'HT method' which is to deny everything that appeared in the Times, no matter how stupid you look - therefore when the Times questioned why Delhi's legislators were so lazy and got into trouble for printing public statistics because said lazy legislators did not like being called lazy, HT gleefully reported that the Times was hauled up. Of course, this is the same paper that until yesterday pretty much defended the insane BRT corridor (and if it wasn't for Delhi's Chief Secretary realising the chaos the BRT has led to, would have continued to defend it). And now we have the afore-mentioned method in The Hindu, which today according to a story in Mint are so scared of Times that they want to raise money by selling a small stake to Fairfax of Australia - the guys who run the Sydney Morning Herald among other papers.
In other news, we finally have the first edition of The Financial Chronicle - or at least a e-Paper since there might not be a Delhi edition for a while. Yes, and you have to login for the service, so I really don't care to read much beyond looking at the front page. The IPL fiasco has become more interesting, firstly with Lalit Modi being forced to back down by the newspapers, which has made the broadcasters who agreed to many of the terms upset - so now they are threatening to boycott the IPL, poor guys!I think the BCCI which can take on the ICC, Cricket Australia and the ECB has met its match with the Indian media. Anyway, come what may, I'll be in the clubhouse at Kotla on saturday to see the Delhi Daredevils take on the Rajasthan Royals (McGrath vs Warne!), so if any of you are coming there, I'll see you there.
And finally NewsX, I watched it for a while yesterday, and yes while the anchors might have English issues and some of them overcompensate by putting on fake accents, this is not a problem restricted to this channel - after all nobody can understand some anchors at Headlines Today (even in real life) and some achors at Undie and Rajdeep TV have 'issues' to put it bluntly. Liked the fact that the layout was clean, the anchorettes looked good and there were no talking head shows. I mean not that one would liked to see 'The Champagne Bathtub Chronicles' (Which led me to an interesting question, how many Champagne Baths would Rs 7.96 crore buy?), but so far so good. Not that I'm going to watch much. And I have one question for CNBC TV18, do they have a features anchor/reporter other than Shereen? Really, I think the poor girl is going to die soon with her workload!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Human Rights experts

Over dinner last night I was told that China is hosting a summit on Human Rights next month and had invited some very senior journalists to take part to talk about how 'Human Rights' in the east is different from the western view of the topic. Now, even though I find the main argument dubious, the invites to the summit were sent out way before the recent crisis in Tibet. It sems that one of the invitees has pulled out citing illness, though he told me that it is the 'prudent' thing to do and the Chinese are very touchy of criticism. The NHRC Chief who was supposed to go has found another summit in London to attend and is sending a lowly B-grade officer - though the NHRC is 'officially' attending. But guess who the keynote speaker at the 'Human Rights' summit will be - N.Ram of The People's Daily of Chennai. I wonder what he will say? Even though given that Xinhua will give the summit wall-to-wall coverage, I'm sure we will read about it.
Talking of China, I would like to see what happens on Thursday in Delhi when the Torch is carried through the streets. I've got a funny feeling with all the bandobast (which is why a parallel relay will be run), there won't be too many protests but given that there are so many journalists who have gotten stoned at the cemetary at St Johns in the Wilderness at McLeodganj and have slight pro-Tibet sympathies I'm wondering if a member of the Fourth Estate will do something silly. I'm not going because there will be far too many cops and it'll be too hot.
In other news, NewsX has made onto Tata-Sky. Damn, now I will have to watch it soon. And Financial Chronicle has (supposedly) launched in Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore (though no-one has seen it) but no website is still in sight for either news organisation. I though media companies have a web strategy in place nowadays before they have a physical product ready - internet age and all, so launching with no website in plain sight (first page of Google) is a problem methinks! And UTV's new biz channel is launching on the 25th (supposedly).


Thanks to the anon commenter who led me to this, I'm embedding the whole video below.

Sure it doesn't sound as crazy as a stadium full of desi's singing it, but sometimes globalisation can be a wonderful thing! Check out Pangea Day for more details.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Chennai Chalo!

Well, ToI has launched in Chennai and Jojo has signed the leader, haven't seen that byline in a while, not even for some interviews! Love it or hate it, this is a big and a long-awaited move for India's largest English daily.
I'm no big fan of the Times, even though I find it to be the most politically neutral of all the major broadsheets, after all they espouse capitalism in a way that some people find disconcerting, even though some recent articles in other papers make me wonder why the pot calls the kettle black. Anyway, the Chennai market needed a bit of shaking up and I'm sure that the Times will do a decent job, and this also allows them to finally claim that they are India's most effective advertising medium, with no other medium offering advertisers such reach and readership.
Well, as the internet changes the way we consume and disseminate information, India will also get caught up in this dramatic change. Maybe some of this change will be driven by the mobile device, but that is a discussion for another day. Today we live in a golden age for print and television media in India. Is this the calm before the storm? Won't take a call on that as yet, but here is wishing ToI success in Chennai, and I wish they take that Communist, China-supporting rag to the ground - those guys should change their name to the People's Daily of India!
Anyway, only had Sunday to spare this weekend and caught the Anime series Afro Samurai voice-starring Samuel L Jackson. Pretty cool, if you are into that sort of thing! Pity we don't get shows like this on TV out here.

Friday, April 11, 2008


One major reason I enabled comment moderation was not just to defuse the bitching that was happening back in January around NewsX but also to prevent spam comments. If you want to take an advert and promote a website, I'll be happy to oblige, I don't want comments saying, "Very good article, I am sure members of xxxxx website would love to read it. Love XXXXX". I'm to reject them anyway, so well, don't waste your time. If you want to email me and suggest a good website or a link I should visit, great, but comments with links are a no-no unless I think they have something interesting.
Anyway, apparently ABP's golden boys got payouts of Rs 8 crore and Rs 35 crore in that order for the 'amicable' (or not) parting of ways, and these are in respective order with which they parted ways. Not that the Income tax department will ever see a penny of these monies, though in the latter case, the money is being paid in equated quarterly installments with several post-dated cheques and with money from a logistics company will be used to establish a new fortnightly which will eventually have an office in Delhi's Green Park. s for the issues regarding UTV, if any readers have any material which they think it would be in the interest of others to read, mail it to me or write a comment.
Talking about the Beijing Olympics, the CPM, which bloodied its hands in Singur shows how 'democratic' an organisation it is by demanding 'safe passage' for the torch through New Delhi and with 'anonymous sources' calling the Dalai Lama names much as Coke's 'anonymous voices' once called Sunita Narain names. And then there is Aamir Khan who endorses two olympic sponsors - Samsung and Coke and will still run with the torch while 'thinking of the Tibetan cause' - Dude, you're an hipocrite, big deal, everybody is, just accept it. And you're short. And Shah Rukh is way better.
Anyway, I don't China quite realised what the global reaction to the Olympics was going to be and quite how many people in the world are quite uncomfortable with China. Check out some of the campaigns running all over the world on the Beijing Games.
I am not against the Games in Beijing. China has come a long way from Mao and won the rights to the games fair and square in 2001. I'm actually only worried about the fact that India will probably embarrass itself again winning next to nothing - one-sixth of the world's population will not have one medal (maybe one or two) to take back home. India should boycott the games as a way to save face not to make a political statement. Anyway, our Sports Minister now is a former Election Commission bureaucrat, which is something I find rather disturbing. And this guy, who is 70 by the way, is also in charge of youth affairs. WTF!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quick Updates

It seems that Financial Chronicle is launching (or not) in Delhi on the 14th, News X has launched despite the chaos in January and has won rave reviews from those who are able to get it for its clean layout and pretty anchorettes, but fortunately (or not) Tata-Sky viewers such as myself don't get the channel as yet. MJ Akbar isn't going back to ABP as a sort of super-editor but rather it seems that Seema Mustafa and him are starting a new fortnightly out of Gurgaon (a la Umesh Anand and Civil Society - though that is a monthly). Conde Nast, buoyed by the success of Vogue is bringing in GQ later this year with anglisiced non-desi Bong Sanjiv Bhattacharya (who I think is a fantastic writer, and I really remember a great piece he did on The Killers more than a year ago) as editor. They are also looking at launching Wired, though Wired could well be more of a facsimilie than GQ or Vogue. Mint is bleeding money down the drain, and losses are believed to have touched Rs 60 crore, and given the chaos 15 stories below, several senior editors over there are very insecure and being played against one another.
If you guys have any news to share email me at presstalk (at) gmail (dot) com
Yours as always

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Make up your own mind...

These are the contents of an email I recieved recently, I will not make any comments on the issue other than to say that several of the documents that were attached (which I've loaded onto Google Docs) date back several years - 2003-2004 in fact and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. I do not know if these are the ramblings of a disgruntled former employee and what exactly happened. Before I start the mail though, I heard some news about the launch of Financial Chronicle being put on hold, the paper which was supposed to be launched on the 14th, might have an indefinate delay and not because drunk people fall down stairs. However, the Times is launching its Chennai edition on the 14th.
Enough of me, the only edit I've made is to remove the email address of the sender.
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 2008 17:39:43 +0530
From: "fired journalist" <>
Subject: Big Scoop: High Drama in UTV Office as CEO Flees From Backdoor when Police Come Calling

High Drama in UTV Office as CEO Flees From Backdoor when Police Come Calling~

Self acclaimed Rupert Murdoch of India, Ronnie (Rohinton) Screwvala, escapes from back door of office and flies straight to Singapore as Police come calling at his office ~ April 7, 2008: In a drama that is straight out Hindi potboilers, the CEO of a publicly listed company, Indians second largest film company, UTV Software Communication, had to run from his own office as Police came calling, and escape to Singapore. Ironically, the police were not even there to arrest him, but fearing so, he fled. For he knew the magnanimity of the offence committed this time. The story begins on the second week of February in 2005, when UTV signed a contract with Eagle Home Videos selling rights to 130 Hollywood films from the Miramax library to them and a hindi film, which they said they had, on 11th February 2005. But they did not have the rights to these films, and yet took 50 lakhs from Eagle as advance. From that time to now, Eagle made repeated calls upon UTV, asking them to hand over the master tapes of the said films, or to refund the money, none of which materialised. They were infact placated time and again by UTV on one pretext or the other, citing that all the tapes had not come, or that censoring was taking time. In reality, UTV had all of the tapes, but had realised the potential of the business and wanted to get into it themselves which they ultimately did and started selling the DVD of the titles on their own. This is not fair, but they should have returned the money owed by them. This, they however refused leading Eagle to file a case against UTV in the High Court of Delhi, and filing an FIR in Nizamuddin, accusing UTV of cheating and breach of trust for the said amount of Rs. 50 lac. The case under section 420 of Indian Penal Code 1860 has been registered in Hazrat Nizamuddin Police Station in Delhi, and is a non-bailable offence and a team of Mumbai Police, under instruction of Delhi Police, raided the UTV office last week. However, in a style typical of gangster films where the gangster escapes for his life from a backdoor, the CEO of UTV, Mr. Ronnie Screwvala, managed to escape and headed straight to the airport and flee to Singapore. A car chase by the police would have been the ideal thing to add, but nothing of that sort happened. The CEO of the 1000 odd crore company obviously had better intelligence than common thieves. This, however, is nothing new, as UTV has a history of such offences: • The list of people and organisations who UTV owes money to runs in thousands (some attached herewith)• The number of cheating, fraud and non payment of dues cases in various courts in the country against UTV, runs into hundreds. (some attached herewith)These are verifiable facts, a complete list of which you can get from the legal person at UTV. What is not verifiable are the scores of people that have been legally cheated e.g. the distributors who were paid a pittance for what they made millions on, people whose business ideas have been stolen, small artists and vendors who have not been paid and since there was no paper work involved, there is no question of a case. An example here can be given of Savita Hiremath, who was legally 'fleeced' of the bulk of money UTV made on 'Khosla Ka Ghosla'. Not only that but they announced a Tamil remake of the film to be directed by Priyadarshan without consulting Savita who is considering filing a case against UTV. UTV plays its cards hush hush. Yet, search for 'UTV Litigation' or 'UTV Court Cases' or 'UTV Arbitration' in Google and some reports do crop up of their black deeds. Though most of them are the ones that occur in the course of ones duty e.g. the Jodha Akbar cases. Yet, no one dares file a case against UTV because of their power and clout, and UTV cares nothing for it because they have mastered the legal system. They know things drag on and people lose interest. As India is heading into the new millennium with its head held high, and proud of its achievements, there are these companies which manage to fool the public, the press and other companies which want to earn from an honest days job. India Shining, no India Cheating Indians.
Attachments (As I noted several of these are very old)
One - Contingement Liability
Two - Copy of Creditors
Three - Creditor Analysis
Four - Legal Notices
Five - List of Legal Cases
Six - Summary of Litigations
Seven - Miramax Library

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Did a day return trip today on the Shatabdi and dragged a laptop along with several movies I bought at the MBK Mall in Bangkok. Most of them were crap, but the last one I saw blew me away. It is called London to Brighton, and if you guys can check it out in the theatre or on DVD, make sure you watch it. Dark, brutal and horribly violent such a movie could only have been made in modern-day Britain. Damn, I loved this movie. Sorry to do movie plugs every once in a while, but this one deserves it.

Tomorrow I'll try and put a post together on the events at UTV where Ronnie Screwalla allegedly 'fled' his offices in Bombay when the Police came (Ironically, not to arrest him) and is currently in Singapore. All this because UTV and their subsidiary companies owe a lot of people a lot of money. Plus, UTV Business, the channel that is going to be launched by Govind Ethiraj is facing delays thanks to 'issues' in acquiring an uplink VSAT license we hear. Anyway, all that and more later.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Damn, a holiday can be so relaxing and even more when you switch off your cell-phone and not check the internet, well, I did sneak in a few random access to me Gmail inbox and to Facebook but I had a great time. And people, if you can just go to Cambodia sometime, I mean Angkor was spectacular. I'm still hurting after all the walking and climbing, but the place is stunning!
Anyway, doing a quick catch-up it seems that News X is alive though not exactly kicking since I have only seen it in office - though, and sorry for sounding sexist - big boobs are terribly captivating, more so than news! The BCCI which has decided to be a worse whore than the lady-boys at Pat Pong is in a pitched battle with the media (aka Times of India) and will most certainly lose if India does another spectacular collapse. And assorted bits here and there, including a new-found pragmatism in the media as regarding coverage of the Tibet issue, on which I do have some thoughts since I consider many of the Tibetan refugees in McLeodganj to be rather ungrateful. And of course, the internet, content, creativity, access and originality debate which is carrying on.
Anyway, it is good to back in chaos!