Network18’s proposal to get foreign money for publishing biz deferred

Network18’s proposal to get foreign direct investment (FDI) for publish business has been deferred by the Foreign Investments Promotions Board (FIPB).

The FIPB has also put on hold Cellcast Interactive India’s proposal to set up three non-news and current affairs television channels in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu in India. Recently, Cellcast launched social TV channel, MyTV.

In toto, FIPB has deferred five proposals relating to the Information and Broadcasting sector. Three of these relate to publishing. Apart from Network18 Media & Investment’s proposal, the others include Packt Publishing, Mumbai, to carry out the business of writing, editing, summarising, compiling, printing, publishing, buying, selling, importing, exporting, circulating or otherwise dealing in books publication and any other information or data pertaining to all areas and sectors such as computer and information technology; and Reed Elsevier India to undertake the additional activity relating to the business of publishing and co-publishing (in and outside India), including digital publishing, printing, reprinting, adaptation, article reprinting, repackaging, translation, distribution of scientific, technical, medical, specialty and research journals/magazines/periodicals in any media including print media.

Two proposals relating to television were also deferred. One was from Catvision Limited, Noida, to increase foreign equity participation to carry out the business of manufacture of CATV equipment, selling CATV equipment like dish antenna, other CATV equipment, cables, energy management equipment and repair of apparatus for television transmission, other business services.

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: The slum-side of fame

Aditi Seshadri

A new book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist about life in the average Mumbai slum has been winning worldwide rave reviews. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a well-researched and well-written portrait of the trials and triumphs of the inhabitants ofAnnawadi, a slum that sprouted on polluted land near Mumbai’s gleaming international airport.

Boo isn’t the first outsider to chronicle Mumbai’s slum culture and poverty extremes. In recent years, Danny Boyle did it most famously in the Oscar-winning film, SlumdogMillionaire. But projects like this always raise questions — and hackles — of ethics and repercussions, in our local media and among social workers. 

There are two concerns that always come up. One, what happens to the ‘characters’, the regular people who become involved in the project when the spotlight goes off? While Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire went on to red carpet glory, Rubina andSalim, two ‘original’ slum residents who featured in the movie returned to their lives. 

Similarly, while Boo is back in the US, life for the residents of Annawadi goes on the same as ever. Boo’s book will probably win tremendous acclaim but what will it translate into for the people featured in her book, who, ironically, can’t even read what has been written about them? 

And the other concern, the one that is more insidious, is the issue of a story being told through foreign eyes.Any good journalist needs to be ruthless and ‘mine’ for goodstories. And Boo has clearly worked hard, spent a great deal of time, making friends, winning people’s trust and integrating herself into the slum life, even attending a village wedding with one of residents. Yet, this is a ‘Western’ account of poverty in India. Is this why the book has gotten so much mileage? Probably. Does this mean Boo’s chronicle is inaccurate? No. In fact, it is probably too accurate which is what ruffles Indian feathers. 

 

Katherine Boo book tour

Katherine Boo book tour (Photo credit: cactusbones)

One of the characters in Boo’s book is Manju. At the time the book was being researched, Manju was studying for a BA in English Literature, and was running a day-care centre out of her home, funded by a non-profit organisation, which is a commonpractice in a lot of slums. Manju, as described by Boo, is a soft-spoken, pretty girl, keen on moving on to a middle-class life, which she hopes to do by educating herself. Nearly four years later, Manju has completed a B.Ed and is studying for an MA degree and, coincidentally, is now a teacher with the non-profit organisation that I work for. This, she says, is a move up and in the right direction for her. 

Manju speaks fondly of Boo saying that they are still in touch and keep texting each other. She says she read the chapter on herself and found it interesting, though I am sceptical of how much of it she understood because this is also a chapter that describes her best friend’s suicide. I ask her how she felt about this. She says she was sad when she read about her friend’s death and relieved her grief, but is happy and flattered that she herself has been written about in such a good book. I wonder if this is an auto-response and try framing the question another way. 

“Did you feel bad when you read about the slum and how people live?” 

“No, what’s there to feel bad about? It’s the reality.” 

Manju’s answer is pragmatic. If there’s any outrage at the slum life being ‘mined’ for an outside audience, it doesn’t seem to be in her mind. In fact, she tells me, Boo’s book has helped her. A reader in the US, who had read Boo’s book, got in touch with Manjuand sent her money which is financing her MA course. 

This is probably the best response to silence critics. If it helped a girl get an education, isn’t that what ultimately matters? (courtesy: DNA)

The great Indian media story: Digitisation dream gone sour

Tata Sky

The path to digitisation has plenty of roadblocks which is affecting the revenues and profits of companies in the broadcast media 

The television media is looking forward to digitisation, which is said to be beneficial for—both channels and broadcasters. It is expected to increased revenues for television channels and broadcasters, many of which are struggling financially. But, there is ample evidence to point out that the transition is not going to be easy.

About a week ago, the ministry of information and broadcasting said that it will start with the digitisation drive from April 2012, beginning with the four metros. The ambitious process is supposed to digitise all cable and analog households in the country by December 2014. The conversion is something many experts claim to be the cure-all, in this case, helping broadcasters and channels to earn revenues and save themselves, and provide a “high-end” experience to viewers, who are still stuck with an ordinary viewing.

According to the FICCI KPMG report, India has 146 million householdsthat have television sets; and cable and satellite makes up 80% of the segment. The biggest beneficiaries from the digitisation drive may be the Direct-to-Home (DTH) service providers and Multi System Operators (MSOs).

But we see that despite a considerable rise in the number of DTH subscribers, the channels, broadcasters and DTH service providers have not made money. This brings us to the question, why?

Airtel Digital TV Review [Updated]

The answer may lie in the convoluted tariff structure and huge inefficiencies of the system. The core problem is that channels are too dependent on advertising, customers are not paying enough for their entertainment, a substantial part of what they are paying is not reaching the TV channels and there is huge oversupply of channels, many funded by slush money and controlled by politicians. This oversupply is draining everybody’s resources—pushing costs higher and dragging down everybody’s profits (or increasing their losses).

The revenues of television business are hugely dependent on advertising. They hardly make much money from subscription. Currently, the average revenue per user (ARPU) is Rs160 per month, across all platforms, according to the FICCI report. This is much lower than what other countries pay. To reach Indian homes, they are dependent on cable operators and DTH providers who extract their pound of flesh. Hernan Lopez, president and chief executive of Fox International Channels, recently said in an interview: “Indian broadcasters generate $2.6 billion a year in advertising. But they only net out $700 million in subscription fees, after accounting for the $400 million they have to pay back in carriage fees.”

Carriage fee is the fee that the broadcasters pay the cable operators and DTH operators to ensure that their channels are carried into your homes. The system of carriage fee is mystifying, and suffers from lack of transparency. The analog cable operators have enormous clout in this area, and they can raise carriage fees, and every year, channels seal deals with these cable operators at increasingly high rates. And there is good deal of revenue leakage from the system. This means, that the channels often lose out on the revenues they earn, as the cable operators do not report their total earnings. Many cable operators are opposed to digitisation because they think it will lead to their loss. It is not that DTH operators are making money either with their carriage fee system. In a recent meet, Harit Nagpal, MD & CEO, Tata Sky, pointed out, “Of every Rs100, the DTH operator has to shell out 32%-35% as taxes and the broadcaster takes about 35%. So, what am I left with? DTH operators in India have shelled out Rs20,000 crore so far towards digitisation.”

Logo of FICCI

The FICCI KPMG report says, “Broadcasters as well as MSOs expect a decline in carriage fee after the implementation of the first phase of digitization. However, there is a lack of consensus on the movement of carriage fee in the medium term. While broadcasters expect a decline over the next two to three years, some MSOs expect carriage payments to claw back to current levels.”

The biggest problem faced by the sector—and what nobody wants to talk about—is of oversupply that is forcing fragmentation. More than 600 channels are on air and government has approved more channels, which are yet to be launched. While many television channels find it difficult to manage their finances and get money for continuing their operations, channels (especially in the regional segment) funded by slush money supplied by some powerful entities get ahead. The money flows in without interruption and unregulated; while other channels struggle to raise money through painful and legitimate means and the channels with dubious means of funding further fragment the sector, and eat away at the revenues. This seamy side of the TV business escapes the fund mangers and analysts. The industry professionals cannot talk about it.

Following the global financial turmoil and inflationary pressure, many corporates have cut down on advertising costs. While the number of channels going up, advertising rates have remained flat and even shown a decline. The 2011 FICCI report had estimated that advertising will grow at 15% CAGR. But the 2012 report says that the growth has been close to 12%. Since 2009, rates have remained flat.

To combat all this, broadcasters have tried to tap into the premium payable segment, i.e., viewers who pay for what they watch via DTH platforms. But it continues to be a very niche segment, because DTH services are costlier than regular cable. Cable operators provide more channels at the same cost while DTH and high definition channels (HD) will also cost more. Convincing the viewer is to pay more will require across-the-board changes.

The FICCI KPMG report estimates that the total cost of digitisation, over four stages, would cost Rs20,000-Rs25,000 crore— excluding investments for DTH additions during the phase. While large cable operators may be able to raise the required cash, small operators and MSOs may not be able to do so. Judging the present scenario, 2014 does not seem to be a realistic deadline for complete digitisation. Information and broadcasting minister, Ambika Soni has assured that the prices of set-top boxes (which are offered at the cheapest rates by China) will come down and that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will impose a tariff capping for subscribing to channels so that viewers do not get access to the whole bouquet of channels. But it will take more than that. Digitisation may improve subscription base, but without a thorough reform in the revenue structure of the industry (which seems impossible given the endless supply of channels), it seems unlikely that Mr Nagpal’s and his friends’ problems will go away.

(courtesy: Money Life)

India’s Archives: How Did Things Get This Bad?

A farman or imperial directive issued by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb lies in a torn folder at the National Archives of India, New Delhi. The label reads, "It is very badly damaged and broken at places."
A farman or imperial directive issued by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb lies in a torn folder at the National Archives of India, New Delhi. The label reads, “It is very badly damaged and broken at places.”

Dinyar Patel

Why has modern India had such a difficult time preserving its history?

Tridip Suhrud, professor who has written extensively on Mohandas K. Gandhi, blamed a lack of historical sensitivity for problems in his state. Gujarat’s local maharajas and business families, he remarked, did not place much importance on keeping records.

A letter written by Mahatma Gandhi at Birla House, Mumbai on September 23, 1945, part of the Sabarmati Ashram archives.
Courtesy of Sabarmati AshramA letter written by Mahatma Gandhi at Birla House, Mumbai on September 23, 1945, part of the Sabarmati Ashram archives.

Consequently, there has been little interest in creating or patronizing archival institutions. Mr. Suhrud can only count three other scholars currently working at theSabarmati Ashram Library in Ahmedabad, the principal repository of Gandhi’s personal papers (properly preserved in a locked, temperature-controlled room, he noted).

Murali Ranganathan, an independent researcher, based in Mumbai, pointed out that the pre-colonial tradition of archives and libraries was extremely strong elsewhere in India: dynasties in Maharashtra, Assam, and Mysore kept vast collections that still survive.Beginning around 1900, he argued, Indians started to become too poor to properly maintain their collections, although several institutions, such as theKhuda Bakhsh Library in Patna and the Saraswathi Mahal Library in Thanjavur (Tanjore), have maintained excellent traditions of preserving pre-British era books and manuscripts.

A leaf from a rare undated copy of the Holy Quran written in Kufic script, believed to be from the 9th century.
Courtesy of Khuda Bakhsh Oriental LibraryA leaf from a rare undated copy of the Holy Quran written in Kufic script, believed to be from the 9th century.

Perhaps the most important factor has been India’s moribund bureaucracy. During the Raj, government archives were treated as repositories of sensitive information, carefully guarded by officials. This attitude did not change much after 1947. Bureaucrats censored scholars’ notes at the end of the workday. Remarkably, many files about nationalists, marked “confidential” by the British, remained inaccessible in the post-independence period. A certain colonial paranoia about free information access persists in the halls of many Indian government institutions.

The government, furthermore, failed to woo many of India’s qualified historians and preservationists, instead staffing its archives, museums, and libraries through bureaucratic and frequently highly politicized channels. As a result, many institutions remain what they were a hundred years ago — simple “godowns” (warehouses) of supposedly sensitive documents and artifacts, staffed by individuals resistant to innovation, openness, or a culture of scholarly investigation.

“When you think of the pace at which other nations are digitizing their archival collections, cataloging information, and disseminating knowledge to scholars and citizens, India is falling behind,” commented Durba Ghosh, a historian at Cornell University. “It is a shame that the Indian government has so severely under-invested in the improvement and maintenance of its archives. Given India’s growing prowess in software and technology and its aspirations for producing a highly educated public, the indifference to archives and India’s history can no longer be explained by a lack of expertise or wealth.”

Several private institutions have now harnessed increased funding opportunities, access to technology, and a new generation of trained archivists to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. Sabarmati Ashram and the Netaji Research Bureau in Kolkata, which has the papers of Subhas Chandra Bose, have digitized their collections, thereby preserving the letters of two of India’s preeminent independence leaders. One of the largest repositories of Jain manuscripts in the world, the Hemacandra Jnan Mandir in northern Gujarat, has also scanned its holdings. In addition to digitization, the Forbes Gujarati Sabha in Mumbai, home to a rare collection of Gujarati books and periodicals, has constructed a special chamber to mitigate the high acid content of Indian paper, one of the primary reasons why books in India fall apart so easily.

The digitization of manuscripts at the National Mission for Manuscripts in Delhi, which sources historical documents from Manuscript Partner Centres including the Forbes Gujarati Sabha in Mumbai.
Courtesy of National Mission for ManuscriptsThe digitization of manuscripts at the National Mission for Manuscripts in Delhi, which sources historical documents from Manuscript Partner Centres including the Forbes Gujarati Sabha in Mumbai.

In addition to the National Archives, other government institutions are finally following suit. Digitization has been a popular first step for preservation since proper temperature control remains a challenge for many institutions. The Maharashtra State Archives in Mumbai, for example, is housed in an open-air structure built in 1888. Suprabha Agarwal, who became director of the Archives in July 2010, tried to install air-conditioning but ran against the strict heritage laws governing the building. Even utilizing fans, she noted, is problematic since the breeze tears apart brittle documents. As a result, the Archives bought a fleet of scanners and has started digitizing its oldest and most damaged collections. Aside from sending her staff to training seminars, Ms. Agarwal has also lobbied the government to build a modern, fully air-conditioned structure for the Archives in a Mumbai suburb and hopes to relocate the institution here around 2015.

Some of Maharashtra's oldest newspaper such as "Bombay Courier" and "The Bombay Durpun" have been preserved by the Maharashtra State Archives in Mumbai.
Courtesy of Maharashtra State ArchivesSome of Maharashtra’s oldest newspaper such as “Bombay Courier” and “The Bombay Durpun” have been preserved by the Maharashtra State Archives in Mumbai.

Ultimately, Indian citizens themselves will need to play a much greater role in ensuring that their government properly maintains the country’s history. Mr. Guha is optimistic that this will happen. “It is now clear that a historical sensibility is developing amongst the Indian public,” he said, observing a surge in the number of history titles in Indian bookstores. “Now that more Indians are getting interested in history, people should play a part in helping preserve it. Private philanthropy is needed. Local pressure is needed for proper preservation.”

India has the resources and the talent, Mr. Guha noted, but the government needs to channel this into moribund institutions. “The leadership provided by Mushirul Hasan at the National Archives and Mahesh Rangarajan, the new director at the Nehru Library, shows that places can change,” he concluded. “If you have good archival historians in positions of authority, look at what can be done.”

(Courtesy: India Ink & Dinyar Patel. 
Dinyar Patel is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard University, currently working on a dissertation on Dadabhai Naoroji and early Indian nationalism. He can be reached at dpatel@fas.harvard.edu.)

 

 

 

 


NYDailyNews.com Launches ‘Desi News’

 

Delivers international and local Asian-Indian news to South Asian communities across the country

 

  NYDailyNews.com, the fifth largest newspaper website in the United States, and NewsCred, a platform that connects brands and publishers with the world’s best journalism, today revealed an online editorial section designed to serve the South Asian community in the Tri-state area and across the country. The ‘Desi News’ section, accessible on NYDailyNews.com, will utilize NewsCred’s SmartPress technology to deliver customized content on Indian politics, entertainment, cricket, and US-Indian relations from leading international publishers.

“The New York metropolitan area has seen a growing interest in news – from an American perspective – about India, Bangladesh and the surrounding Pan-Asian areas as that community thrives throughout New York and New Jersey, as well as across the country,” said Steve Lynas, Senior Vice President of Daily News Digital. “NYDailyNews.com has recognized the need to provide interesting content to this growing, sophisticated, and educated Asian-Indian audience.”

With a range of respected and proven journalism sources, NewsCred will provide Daily News editors with access to fully licensed articles and images from over 750 publications of interest to this growing community. The ‘Desi News’ section will be refreshed daily with relevant content custom-tailored and curated by NewsCred’s SmartPress technology.

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)

112 government websites hacked in just 3 months !!!

In just three months, a total of 112 websites belonging to various government bodies, including that of BSNL, were hacked.

The ministry, currently on an ambitious project to build an organization to monitor online traffic, was replying to a question on whether or not BSNL’s website was hacked in December, and how many such incidents took place since then.

“The website of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (www.bsnl.co.in) was hacked on 4th December, 2011 by the ‘H4tr!ck’ hacker group,” the ministry said.

“In addition, during the period December, 2011 to February, 2012 a total no. of 112 Government websites were hacked,” it added.

These hacked websites belonged to the agencies in the Government of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur: Agencies of Ministry of Finance, Health, Planning Commission and Human Resource Development.

The ministry also said the total number of cases of internet financial fraud were 864 in number, involving Rs. 824.05 lakh in 2009, 2232 cases involving Rs 1234.94 lakh in 2010 and 1798 cases involving Rs.787.39 lakh for the calendar year in 2011.

Meanwhile, the government is setting up a National Cyber Coordination Centre at a cost of Rs 800 crore, according to the Times of India, to monitor all communication using the Internet, including email, tweets etc..