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Sai Paranjpe: a leading women director of Indian cinema

Captured by ace lensman Jagdish Aurangabadkar, this picture shows how Sai was a hands-on filmmaker.

Saeed Jaffrey, the cigarette shop owner Lallan Miyan had a customer Siddharth aka Farooq Shaikh, who unluckily couldn’t smoke. And thus, on the sets of the 1981 comedy Chashme Buddoor, director Sai Paranjpe had to take it on herself to teach her hero how to puff his way into the scene.

Captured by ace lensman Jagdish Aurangabadkar, this picture shows how Sai was a hands-on filmmaker. In India, where women smokers are still looked down upon, Sai had no qualms teaching her male lead actor Farooq how to smoke. As the two actors stare at their director, Sai lights up with a coir rope hanging from the cigarette shop.
And those were the days when Coke had still not made its second entry into the subcontinent. So there was the celebrated replacement Cola – Campa! And there was Ship matches. And of course, there was the absence of designer wardrobe, director’s hats, and too many assistants. There was a saree-clad filmmaker who took the reins of her project and led it forward. And that, as we call it, makes history! (courtesy: Bangalore Mirror)

Community Radio will dry out in India

Sevanti Ninan writes in her column Talking Media (livemint.com) about the Community Radio (CR) services affected by the spectrum policy.

A spectrum story

The ministry of I&B has been holding periodic consultations to see if it can give a fillip to the spread of CR

Here is a spectrum story that does not make the headlines. No fancy lawyers arguing on behalf of top-drawer clients, no Rs. 1,000 crore sums to bandy about, no industry associations seeking meetings with cabinet ministers, or a 2G or 3G label to guarantee page 1 when a story lands on the desk. And completely without the drawing power of Aamir Khan on Star TV to compete for media mind space.

The drama is small scale: a meeting boycotted this week with the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) in the hope that some pressure will be exerted, a one-day no-broadcast strike by community radio stations on Wednesday in districts across the country, which will be noticed by the communities they cater to, but nobody else. Desperate consultations with each other by very small radio broadcasters catering to communities within a 5-25km radius, in scattered districts of the country.

In April, a small community radio (CR) station, run by people dedicated to the Brahma Kumaris in the hilly area of Mount Abu, got a rude jolt. Radio Madhuban 90.4 FM caters to a rural community around the town of Mount Abu. Its website has the usual pictures of happy cows and smiling people. April brought the annual licence fee invoice from the wireless planning and coordination wing (WPC) of the department of telecommunications. This is the wing which allocates spectrum and had announced in March that rates were being revised upwards from 1 April this year. The announcement had tables to help you calculate the rate for the spectrum you were using.

But until Radio Madhuban got its notice, nobody quite understood what the implications were for CR stations, which have always got concessional rates. The short-range radio spectrum for which they had paid Rs. 19,700 the previous year, would now cost Rs. 91,000 for an annual licence. That might be less than chicken feed for the Bhartis, RComs and Telenors of this world, but was bad news for a small community radio, which in any case struggles to be viable.

Why it was done is probably because spectrum rates were upped across the board after the Supreme Court’s judgement on getting higher value for natural resources. But if that is the case, it directly contradicts the 1995 judgement of the Supreme Court which says the airwaves belong to the people. Can all users of spectrum be lumped in the same category for pricing purposes? True the CR licence fee has remained unchanged since 2003, but then elsewhere in the world the trend is to bring down costs of CR to enable its spread. Some countries have a free citizen band of spectrum.

The ministry of I&B has been holding periodic consultations to see if it can give a fillip to the spread of CR. There are some 120 stations now, the majority run by universities and colleges, because that is how the policy started out in 2002. The government, always terrified of what little people might do to national security, opened up a band of very local spectrum for use by educational institutions. By 2006, they gathered courage to open it up further. But there is an impressive list of ministries who have to clear each licence. Which is why it has taken 10 years to get to 120-plus stations going operational, the majority still linked to educational institutions.

So who needs CR when we are drowning in media of all kinds, including rural direct-to-home (DTH) and cable television? Communities that need information and entertainment in local dialects in rural areas, and even on the fringe of metropolises. Communities that have learnt to create their own radio programmes. There is Gurgaon ki Awaaz and a new radio station called Radio Mewat, catering to communities outside Delhi. There is Apna Radio in Tonk, Rajasthan, Chanderi ki Awaaz in Madhya Pradesh, Radio Namaskar in Puri, and Sangham Radio, the oldest of them all, in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh. They put out local news-you-can-use and music. Do they now need to become a source of revenue for the government of India?

There is a body of CR advocates called the Community Radio Forum who make a few basic points. Is this just another way of denying access by raising the barriers to entry? In actual money terms, what the government gains from charging Rs. 91,000 each from 125 community radio stations is a pittance. The bigger non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and university radio stations might survive this fee hike, but it will be the last straw for the smaller CR ventures run by local-level NGOs. They are yet to find a sustainable revenue model for CR.

There is nothing to indicate that a body like the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is seized of this issue. They have bigger fish to fry. And evidently, in the government of India, ministries such as I&B, rural development and communication and information technology don’t consult each other as to what their priorities are, when they make policy.

Sevanti Ninan is a media critic, author and editor of the media watch website thehoot.orgShe examines the larger issues related to the media in a fortnightly column.

Nevanta for urban & NRI women

Nevanta.com will focus on fashion, celebrities and entertainment for Indian women, captured in brief two-minute videos.

Nevanta Media Technologies has launched www.nevanta.com, a video web-magazine targeted at women. The website will host high definition videos on fashion, celebrities and entertainment, offering women fashion trends, heads up on stores and designers in brief two-minute video format.

The content is targeted at urban and NRI women in the age group of 18-34 years.

According to the company, the idea of the website came from what was found to be little available information online for young Indian women on fashion, shopping and trends.

Nevanta.com looks to bridge the gap between designers, celebrities and their audiences.

“Nevanta offers a carefully screened collection from today’s top and also the emerging Indian designers, showcasing their very individual and distinctive styles. It’s never been easier to discover your favourite local designers, latest trends, your favourite celebrities and their personal style statements, all on one platform,” says Sunija Rishi, founder, Nevanta Media.

“We aim to be the online destination for the modern Indian woman to discover her very own style statement,” she adds.

Nevanta is an all-women‘s organisation; the content for Nevanta.com will be produced by young women taking on the role of producers and journalists, thereby better addressing the TG.

“We take great pride in being an all-women company and each woman on board embodies the perfect prototype of a ‘Nevanta woman’ – sharp, successful, confident and fabulously feminine,” quips Atasi Chatterjee, co-founder, Nevanta.

Identifying potential in online video, Nevanta sees high-speed mobile internet connectivity driving the convergence between mobile and internet platforms and also looks to leverage the opportunities offered by the growing mobile device market. With social media also growing as a platform for online video consumption, the short length videos on Nevanta.com will further help them to be shared extensively on social platforms.

On the revenue generation model, Nevanta.com will stay clear of traditional online advertisement formats. The company is looking at non-intrusive advertising, sponsorship and product placement. It is also in the process of developing an e-commerce plan based on Nevanta’s association with Indian designers and luxury brands.

Life in a Rectangle: Believe me, your life will come full circle!

Anurag Hira

For someone who spent eight of his almost 25 colourful years at the very same 55B Mirza Ghalib Street that is the epicentre of Sujit Sanyal’s Life in a Rectangle, his candidly written memoir is a trot down the characteristic advertising grasslands of Calcutta’s yesteryear.

An easy-going and highly entertaining book, it is about how Calcutta nurtured and shaped some of the finest minds of advertising and how those wonderful people then outgrew Calcutta. Some left the city for greener pastures, while others, sadly, left us for another paradise. Mr Sanyal’s book is largely anecdotal and the stories he so vividly captures are all about the good times and the bad, the really fun times and some, quite sad.

early, he chose to make this a rambling all-over-the-place kind of book without a proper path in place, but at no point does it make the reader feel unstrung. A free-flowing string of entertaining stories, they have been told as any advertising person would when you catch up after a long time. It leaves you with a montage of images and a potpourri of memories, mostly nice. Clarion, though — as anyone knows — had more ups and downs than all of Free School Street’s and Ripon Street’s potholes put together! But that’s another long story for another time.

Getting back to the crux of my piece, the truth is I heard about Life in a Rectangle from my brother Mohit, who was invited to walk the audience down Calcutta’s advertising journey at his book launch in Delhi — from his ‘Contract’ed, but unlimited point of view.

Incidentally, Mohit, the last shishya of Subhas Ghosal, has seen a lot more of our largely-fun-but-lately-dirty advertising world than I have; he is one of the four pillars who gave my career a rather solid structure.

I’m not sure what implications Life in a Rectangle holds for even a generation after me, but clearly it is a well-travelled, beautifully told series of short stories by one of the last few gentlemen in our business. I had to, quite unfortunately, give Mr Sanyal’s book launch and the panel discussion a miss, owing to work and social pressures (in that order), but snacking voraciously on it over the first few nights and having made a wholesome meal by the end of it, I have to admit that he has a vivid storytelling ability of a typical advertising man.

This book is nothing but a hard-cover adda session that has every character of those days mentioned lovingly and realistically — something all of us do even now, whenever we meet old colleagues who have turned friends, over the years. Clients and some iconic brands, client-agency relationships way back then, the ethics of conducting business, encounters with legends and all those wonderful, real people who crafted such memorable communication in between living mad lives, are all strewn across in abundance. Clearly, through all his experiences, Mr Sanyal possesses the rubbed-off pedigree of Mr Ghosal and to an extent, professor Subroto Sengupta.

Life in a Rectangle is a must-read for anyone from that bygone era and is, perhaps, the only ‘advertising reunion’ in print that I have laid my eyes and hands on. We all remember our beginnings and lovingly like reminiscing our glory days among wacky characters of rare talent, combined with a sense of acerbic wit and dry humour. It is a book that dwells on strong human relationships and lifetime bonds made while conducting business, above all.

Advertising was, as Bill Cosby put it, the most fun you could have with your clothes on! So if you’ve been a part of the people’s business from the ’70s through to the ’90s, please pick up a copy of Life in a Rectangle.

Believe me, your life will come full circle!

(The author is the co-owner of One by One Design)

HARD-COVER ADDA

Sujit Sanyal at Crossword to launch his first book Life in a Rectangle: The World Around 55B Mirza Ghalib Street, in association with The Telegraph.
Picture by Anindya Shankar Ray

Crossword Bookstore on Elgin Road boomed with laughter on the evening of March 30 as the dadas and didis of Calcutta’s advertising world caught up with one another after years at the launch of Life in a Rectangle: The World Around 55B Mirza Ghalib Street (Fingerprint, Rs 395) by ad veteran

Sujit Sanyal, held in association with The Telegraph. Oindrilla Dutt and veteran actor Jagannath Guha read excerpts from the book.

“It is not an autobiography. It’s the Clarion story, the story of everyone who was a part of Calcutta in the 1970s and ’80s,” said the author, tall and energetic in a rich navy blue kurta.

From adman Ram Ray to evenings at Oly [Olympia on Park Street], the book which was released by Dilip Chatterjee, former president of Advertising Club, Calcutta, gives the readers a sneak peek into the lives surrounding Clarion McCann Advertising since 1976, when Sanyal joined the firm as a trainee.

“I just had to download those memories somewhere, and while sitting and staring at the laptop, the words came naturally to me,” laughed Sanyal.

The event also saw Sabyasachi Ghosh, the current president of Advertising Club, join the bunch of ad people as they swapped memories of hilarious client presentations to the familiar last-moment adrenaline rush.

“This is an insider’s book, but for people who are not insiders it gives rare glimpses into the circumstances in which the advertising world grew in Calcutta,” said Guha about the book, written by one of his first students at Bhawanipur College and later a friend.

Sreyoshi Dey

Trai for Better Telly: But why stop at limiting ads on TV channels?

Some might welcome the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India‘s (Trai) proposals to limitadvertisements on the telly. Watching the idiot box often seems like catching an occasional glimpse of a programme amid the cacophony of ads. Revenue, after all, is God for channels.

And Trai might just leave them cussing all the way out of the bank. One can imagine someone at Trai, taking a break from drafting the consumer verification norms, or the spectrum auction guidelines, or the rural telephony subsidy directives, turned on a TV set, and felt more rules were needed.

Here are some additional modest proposals: if improving the TV-viewing experience is really on Trai’s priority list, it shouldn’t stop at limiting the number of ads aired per hour. A limit on the decibel levels in TV discussions comes to mind – anchors who exceed the limit can be banned from the airwaves or be forced to broadcast the quietest of their rivals instead.

Let’s also set an upper bound on the amount of screen real estate dedicated to graphics, charts, news tickers and screaming headlines. And rules for how many ‘windows’ any channel can use during a group discussion – say, two for entertainment and sport, three for general news and under half a dozen for business news. And let’s restrict the number of times ‘Exclusive’ or ‘Breaking News‘ can be used to once a day.

Trai suggests scheduling of ads only during interruptions of play on live sporting events – but why stop there? Why not schedule ads only during the boring parts of live news events? Viewers would also appreciate smaller logos of broadcast sponsors – could Trai mandate that they be smaller than the main newscaster’s head? Throw in a restriction on the number of times sportscasters can mention their sponsors, and this policy would be much improved. Savvy, Trai?(courtesy: Economic Times.)

proposal to cut ad time irks TV channels

Advertising advertising

Advertising advertising

Irritated by those frequent commercial breaks between your favourite programme on TV? The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has taken note of viewer irritation and has come up with a proposal to regulate the duration, frequency, timing and audio levels of advertisements.

But broadcasters are not amused by the proposal to put limits on advertising, contained in the telecom and broadcasting watchdog’s consultation paper on issues related to advertisements on television. They fear their main source of revenue will be badly hit.

Mr Paritosh Joshi, CEO, Star CJ and Director, Indian Broadcasting Federation, said, “TRAI has no business to meddle with the duration of ads. The objective of each channel is to make profits and it should work on the principles of free market.” TV channels get 60 per cent of their revenues comes from advertising.

But TRAI says that broadcasters are ignoring current rules. TRAI in its paper points out that free-to-air channels should not carry ads exceeding 12 minutes an hour (this includes 10 minutes of commercials and two minutes of self promotions) and pay channels not more than six minutes of ads per hour. For live telecast of sporting events, ads should only be carried during actual breaks. These limits exist in the current rules, but are observed more in the breach.

TRAI has also pointed out that news and current affair channels cannot run more than two scrolls at the bottom of the screen, occupying a maximum of 10 per cent screen space. It also says that ads should not in any manner interfere with the programme use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme

SELF REGULATION

Ms Mona Jain, CEO, Vivaki Exchange, feels that some channels do require regulation in the way they screen ads. But the industry favours self regulation.

Mr Joshi said, “Channels will exercise self regulation as they know that consumer eyeballs will go away if they were to show more ads and less of content.”

“While there should be a guideline and cap on ad durations, broadcasters are sensible enough to know where to draw the line and not to go overboard,” said Mr Jehil Thakkar, Head – Media and Entertainment, KPMG.

WILL AD RATES GO UP?

If the TRAI proposal goes through, will it force channels to raise ad rates? Ms Jain of Vivaki says, “Channels will want to make up for money lost due to reduced air time. But to raise rates, one will need to have commensurate increase in ratings.”

Ms Jain also points to innovations that some channels have done to make the audience stay during the ad breaks, by putting a stop clock on that shows how long the break is going to be.

She says, “Channels need to figure out how to make viewers stay during the breaks to increase rates.”

Analysts such as Pinc Research say that it is unlikely that broadcasters would allow the proposal to be implemented. TRAI has asked stakeholders to send their comments to its proposals by March 27. (courtesy: Business Line)