In India’s most literate state, there are no newspapers!

It’s official that newspapers are America’s fastest-shrinking industry, but something more worrying is happening in Kerala, where newspaper distribution has come to a trickle since March 20.

The development comes after months of mud-slinging between newspaper managements and vendors, which apparently began when vendors began charging a service fee of Rs 10 per month from subscribers. What was thought to be molehill has now become a mountain of trouble for newspaper establishments in Kerala, with distribution having come to a stop almost across the state over the past four days.

Newspapers in Kerala

It has been difficult to gather information on the subject because newspapers are largely mum about the matter (perhaps fearing that advertisers will desert print because circulation on any given day is not guaranteed). What is generally known is that the vendors have raised five main demands, which are (1) raise commission to 50% of cover price, (2) give extra commission for distribution of supplements, (3) provide newspapers with supplements inserted from the press, (4) if supplements have to be inserted by vendors, provide extra commission for that job, and (5) send only the number of copies requested by each vendor.

Newspaper managements allege that the vendors are now distributing only papers with political affiliation, like Deshabhimani, Veekshanam, Chandrika, Janayugam and Janmabhoomi. The situation is so bad that chief minister Oommen Chandy has directed police to take stern action against the striking union of dealers for ‘selectively’ disrupting distribution of independent newspapers. The Gulf Today‘s Ashraf Padanna quotes Chandy as saying, “Everybody has the right to strike. But they should respect the rights of others to work as well. Several bundles of newspapers have been thrown away or burned, which could not be tolerated. I have directed the police to take stern action against them.”

Except in Thiruvananthapuram where circulation is more or less normal, the situation is alarming (for newspaper establishments and advertisers) in the rest of the state. This is the reaction I got from contacts in Kochi and Kozhikode:

Male, aged 52 (Kochi): I subscribe to five papers at home, but I’ve got only one these last four days. I now realise how much time I was wasting in the morning. I can really have some conversation with my wife in the morning, with the morning cuppa.

Male, aged 51 (Kozhikode): I subscribe to six newspapers and have been getting only Deshabhimani these days. I think a few days without newspapers may be like a few days off smoking. One may kick the habit after the break. I understand that distribution of papers is hardest hit in Kozhikode, Kannur and Malappuram.

Print journalists in Kerala now have the unenviable task of asking around if their stories have been carried because they cannot get a copy of their own newspaper — and of course, live with the fact that almost no one else is reading their stories either, because papers aren’t distributed. That is one story no journalist would want to break.

Should we all take an aspirin?

There are numerous health benefits but it's not without risk

There are numerous health benefits but it’s not without risk

The benefits of aspirin are making headlines again, this time with research showing it prevents cancer. So we should all be stocking up, surely? Not so. There are numerous health benefits from taking this drug but it is not without risks. Here’s what you need to know.

Should we all be taking it?

No. However, over the age of 50 we know the risk of cancer increases, so it is possible that if you started taking it from that age onwards you might reduce the risk of certain cancers. If you have a strong family history of heart disease or cancers and are not on any medications that irritate the stomach (aspirin can further damage the stomach lining), it is worth considering. But always ask your GP first.

Will it really stop us from getting cancer?

Although the studies show it reduces the risk of cancers, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get the disease. So if you have a family history of colorectal or prostate cancer, you still need to be aware of the warning signs.

Who should take it?

Anyone for whom it has been prescribed – those at risk of stroke or heart attack, or any cardiovascular reason.

And who shouldn’t take it?

If you are taking any medication that irritates the stomach, you must seek medical advice. This includes steroids, antidepressants or regular ibuprofen for conditions such as arthritis. Ibuprofen once a week for a headache shouldn’t cause any problems but it might if taken more frequently. Haemophiliacs and those with stomach ulcers cannot take it.

What dose should we take?

One 75mg tablet a day on a full stomach. Take with a glass of milk – not, as many think, to reduce irritation to the stomach, but because the calcium helps with absorption.

What are the  side effects?

Some degree of stomach irritation is inevitable. Aspirin stimulates prostaglandins in the stomach but this won’t always cause a problem. Some will develop ulcers, especially those who drink or smoke heavily.

Popcorn has ‘more antioxidants than fruit and vegetables’

As well as being a great diet food, popcorn also contains a high level of antioxidents, which help fight harmful molecules. Posed by model

As well as being a great diet food, popcorn also contains a high level of antioxidents, which help fight harmful molecules.

Plain popcorn has already been hailed as a great diet food for its low calorie content but now a group of scientists claim it may even top fruits and vegetables in antioxidant levels.

Antioxidants – known as polyphenols – have huge health benefits as they help fight harmful molecules that damage cells.

Popcorn was found to have a high level of concentrated antioxidants because it is made up of just four percent water while they are more diluted in fruits and vegetables because they are made up of up to 90 percent water.

Researchers discovered one serving of popcorn has up to 300mg of antioxidants – nearly double the 160mg for all fruits per serving.

They also found that the crunchy hulls of the popcorn have the highest concentration of antioxidants and fiber.

The scientists from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania unveiled their discovery at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego.

Researcher Joe Vinson said: ‘Those hulls deserve more respect. They are nutritional gold nuggets.’

But Mr Vinson warned that people can’t forgo their five-a-day in favour of popcorn – as it doesn’t contain vital vitamins and nutrients found in fruit and vegetables.

Although he added that popcorn has many other health benefits, stating: ‘Popcorn may be the perfect snack food.

But researchers warn that while popcorn has a higher concentration of antioxidents it doesn't contain any of the vital vitamins or other nutrients found in fruit and vegetablesBut researchers warn that while popcorn has a higher concentration of antioxidents it doesn’t contain any of the vital vitamins or other nutrients found in fruit and vegetables

‘It’s the only snack that is 100 per cent unprocessed whole grain.

‘All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called ‘whole grain’, this simply means that over 51 per cent of the weight of the product is whole grain.

‘One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 per cent of the daily intake of whole grain.

‘The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way.’

The scientists warned that preparation is key to culling popcorn’s health benefits.

Mr Vinson added: ‘Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories while microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped.’


In the name of Freedom: Tibetan protester sets himself on fire

  • Protester ran 50m before collapsing in flames outside Indian Parliament
  • Over 30 have performed self-immolation this year in protest at China‘s rule over Tibet

A Tibetan protester has been treated for severe burns after setting himself on fire in a demonstration during the Chinese president’s visit to India.

The unidentified male protester sprinted for 50m through New Delhi today engulfed in flames as hundreds demonstrated against China’s rule over Tibet.

The protester carried out the self-immolation as he ran near the speakers at a rally near the Indian Parliament in the country’s capital.

Scroll down for video

Demo: The unnamed Tibetan man ran 50m outside the Indian parliament before collapsing todayDemo: The unnamed Tibetan man ran 50m outside the Indian parliament before collapsing today

He collapsed after around 50m as fellow protesters beat out the flames with Tibetan flags they were carrying.

The man was later treated for severe burns at a New Delhi hopital, one Tibetan organiser said.

He made the dramatic protest as Chinese President Hu Jintao prepared to arrive in India later this week for a summit meeting.

The Tibetan exile, who had been protesting at China's continued ownership of Tibet, is being treated for severe burns at a New Delhi hospital
The Tibetan exile, who had been protesting at China's continued ownership of Tibet, is being treated for severe burns at a New Delhi hospital
 The Tibetan exile, who had been protesting at China’s continued ownership of Tibet, is being treated for severe burns at a New Delhi hospital

More than 600 protesters, carrying banners and posters, marched across New Delhi to a central plaza near the Indian Parliament to hold a protest meeting.

The Tibetan protest came as Chinese president Hu Jintao prepared to visit New Delhi for a summit meeting

Some carried posters saying ‘Tibet is burning’ and ‘Tibet is not part of China’.

At the protest venue a big poster featuring Mr Hu’s face with a bloody palm print on it said: ‘Hu Jin Tao is unwelcome’ at the summit.

As speakers addressed the crowd, the protester set himself ablaze and ran across the venue.

After witnessing the man set himself on fire, one onlooker, Tenzin Dorjee, said: ‘This is what China faces unless they give freedom to Tibet.’

At least 30 people in Tibet have set themselves on fire over the past year in protest at Chinese rule over their homeland.

The Dalai Lama has blamed China’s ‘ruthless policy’ for the self-immolations. China accuses the Dalai Lama of stirring up trouble.

China says Tibet has always been part of its territory. Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries.

Video: Photographer captures burning protestor on camera as the crowd try to put him out


(courtesy: Daily Mail & CHRIS PARSONS & Manish Swarup)

Cairns wins £90,000 damages, but Modi is bankrupt !?!

This is a picture of lalit Modi which is used ...

Former New Zealand test cricketer Chris Cairns has succeeded in his “Twitter libel” claim against the former Chairman of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi.  In an judgment handed down today ([2012] EWHC 756 (QB)), Mr Justice Bean comprehensively dismissed the defendant’s defence of justification.

The Judge concluded that

Mr Modi has singularly failed to provide any reliable evidence that Mr Cairns was involved in match fixing or spot fixing, or even that there were strong grounds for suspicion that he was” [118].

The Judge went on to award damages of £90,000 to Mr Cairns, despite the fact that the defamatory tweet had been published to only 65 followers in England and Wales.  He indicated that his starting point was £75,000 but that, taking into account the attack on the claimant at the trial, the damages were to be increased by 20%.

An order for interim payment of costs of £400,000 was made.  Permission to appeal was refused.

We will have a full report on the case in due course.

(courtesy: Inforrm’s Blog)

Mumbai (Bollywood) Gets Its Own Walk of Fame

An artist's rendering of the soon to be launched  “UTV Stars’ Walk of the Stars,” in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

An artist’s rendering of the soon to be launched  “UTV Stars’ Walk of the Stars,” in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

If staring at Bollywood stars’ houses, waiting patiently for them to go grocery shopping, or living vicariously through gossip columns is not enough for you, there’s India’s brand-new, star-studded walk of fame.

Inspired by the Hollywood original, UTV Stars, a new Bollywood channel, is introducing its own “Walk of the Stars.” Slated to open on Wednesday, the walk spans a 2-kilometer, or 1.2-mile, stretch along the Bandra Bandstand Promenade in Mumbai.

The sea-facing promenade will feature the handprints and signatures of Bollywood stars embossed on brass plates on tiles along the path. Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore, Meena Kumari, Shammi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi and Sridevi are among the stars featured.

The UTV television group, which calls its new UTV Stars channel “the official channel of Bollywood,” has been working on the project for two years, collecting all the necessary permissions and hand impressions. “We wanted to do something as a tribute to the big stars of Bollywood who have contributed so much,” said Nikhil Gandhi, the business head at UTV Stars. “It’s a one-of its-kind attraction in India to bring fans a little closer to their favorite movie stars.”

The new Walk of the Stars will also feature several statues of Bollywood legends, including Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. The statues are life-size brass representations of each star, sitting on benches.

A mock-up of the "UTV Stars" bench in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
Courtesy of UTVA mock-up of the “UTV Stars” bench in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

“You’ll have a whole horde of people who would like to sit on a bench beside Raj Kapoor and get themselves photographed,” predicts Robin Nath, honorary secretary and trustee at the Bandra Bandstand Residents Trust, which developed and maintains the promenade. “You and me might not be infatuated by Bollywood stars but the rest of the public hero-worships them. I’m sure it’ll be a great hit.”

While unwilling to disclose the cost of the entire project, Mr. Gandhi said each brass statue will cost 35 lakh, or 3.5 million rupees , the equivalent of $68,000. There will be 6 to 8 such statues, and about 100 handprints.

Unlike the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and maintained by the self-financing Hollywood Historic Trust, this project will be promoted, funded and privately managed by UTV. “We have the support of the entire industry,” said Mr. Gandhi. “Bollywood, per se, is not a registered term, so there is not an administration we have to go through,” he said.

The name “Walk of the Stars” is a nod to the multiplicity of movie stars generated by the industry in recent years, Mr. Gandhi said. “Earlier it was one superstar per decade,” he said. “Now we have 10 or 15 stars per era delivering one super hit after the other.”

Mr. Gandhi said, “The project will not only be a monument to the industry but add to the beautification of the Bandra Bandstand promenade. People will visit especially to see it.”

Because the walk is being built in a public space, it required the permission of multiple government departments, including a no-objection certificate from the Maharashtra Maritime Board – a process that the company said was simple. “The process of getting approvals from the government was quite easy because of the credibility and value it adds to the promenade – it is a non-commercial project, free of cost to access to the public,” said Mr. Gandhi.

“It’s a very nice thing for the Bandra area, where there are already so many stars residing that people come from all over to stare at Salman Khan’s house or Shah Rukh Khan’s bungalow,” said Mr. Nath. “It is about time that people recognized the fame of these actors living in our neighbourhood and gave them their due honor.”

(courtesy: By NEHA THIRANI & India Ink  & Courtesy of UTV)

Hindi news channels rake in the moolah on poll counting day

The channels dropped volumes but still rode high on the back of premium rates. Aaj Tak achieved record single-day revenue but had to compromise on TRPs.

Hindi News channels raked in the moolah on the day of counting during the recent Assembly elections in five states. And they did so despite dropping volumes, by hiking rates to achieve record revenues.

Aaj Tak, which has always attracted maximum eyeballs during major developments of national interest, decided to encash its positioning on counting day. The mandate was clear: to earn record ad revenue on a single day. It continued with ad breaks even during the peak hours of counting.  It claims that it had dropped inventory volumes by 30-35 per cent inventories compared with its regular inventories, but had done all bookings at premium rates. The channel has claimed to have raked in revenues of Rs 2.5 crores which included fresh ad bookings for counting day worth Rs 2 crore.

But this record-breaking single-day revenue was achieved at a price. For the first time since its launch, Aaj Tak had compromised with its TRPs on a big day which is being termed as a short-term gain by independent media observers. However, it is to be seen if advertisers will stick to the channel in case it continues with the current trend in future too.

BestMediaInfo had reported the viewership trends of Hindi News channels during the Assembly polls wherein Aaj Tak stood at No. 3 in several markets and TGs despite its leadership during the five weeks of the electoral process. (Assembly elections: Star News leads on counting day; Aaj Tak rules across 5 weeks)

The second highest earning on counting day has been claimed by Star News which emerged as the No. 1 channel in most of the markets and TGs in terms of TRPs. Although the channel had sold 50 per cent lower inventory for counting day, it claimed revenues of Rs 1.5 crore for the day on the back of high premium on rates. Star News had break-free live programming during the peak hours of vote counting from 8 AM to 12.30 PM and also during primetime.

In normal situations, ad revenues of Star News remain around 10 per cent less than that of Aaj Tak despite having 20-30 per cent lower market share. However, with the No. 1 position on counting day, the channel is optimistic about increasing its pie in future.

Similarly, India TV, which remained the second most watched channel along with Zee News in several markets and TGs on counting day, despite lagging during the run-up to counting day starting final phase of voting from March 3 to 5, has claimed ad revenues of Rs 1.5 crore for counting day. According to senior officials at the channel, India TV has proved that it leads the genre in serious programming also. The channel had established flagship properties like ‘Aapka Mukhyamantri Kaun’ during the Assembly polls which will continue during future elections.

Mediaah! Morparia moves from Mid-Day to Mirror, Weekend tweets, The Monday Psssst!

Pradyuman Maheshwari

Big Switch! Morparia takes his toon from Mid-Day to Mumbai Mirror

In Mumbai’s media circles, this is a piece of news that’s going to generate much sound and angst. Hemant Morparia, one of India’s foremost editorial cartoonists, has moved from Mid-Day to Mumbai Mirror. There was a time when he could have been called a part-time cartoonist, but since around a decade, he appears to be doing two full-time jobs. The first as a radiologist and sonologist at the Breach Candy Hospital and the second as an editorial cartoonist. Now with Mumbai Mirror, Time Out and a few other publications.

Sound and angst because Mumbai Mirror isn’t an afternoon paper like Mid-Day, but they are kind-of in the same space. So the switch will hurt Mid-Day much. And angst, because it’s sad to see Mid-Day lose Morparia just around the time when it was getting its act together.

In a sense, the Mirror switch is a kind-of homecoming. He started out in the Times building in the late 1980s with The Evening News of India and then the Illustrated Weekly before doing daily toons for Bombay Times for nine years. And then in 2003, he shifted to Mid-Day. Another nine years later, he’s moved to Mumbai Mirror.

I posed a few questions to Morparia on the move.

1. So, why the switch from Mid-Day to Mumbai Mirror?

> Some change of scene is always good, specially after nine years. It gives you a new audience and new space and new feedback. It helps to re-evaulate your own style and content. I was perfectly happy with Mid-Day, very pleasant people to work with and no problems with them at all. Happy memories with them. Sachin Kalbag is a friend and am saddened to leave.

2. One of my peeves with Mid-Day was that your toon was all over the paper. How much is a fixed slot necessary for a pocket cartoon? Like Laxman had in ToI for years?

> Ya, a fixed slot is a great attraction for a daily cartoonist, I would say a must. See, a daily cartoon is, or could become, a habit. If all over the place, it does not easily do so.

3. Will we continue to see your toons in Time-Out and elsewhere?

> Yes, I have only given the daily cartoon slot to the Mirror.

4. So what’s more fun at this stage of your career: doing sonos and xrays, or tooning?

> Well as I respond to you, I’m at the hospital, having just made a rare diagnosis on an emergency basis at 9pm on a Sunday. I did a sonography on a lady in pain, who just lost her father, two days ago. The diagnosis will be the key to whether she needs surgery or not. With this diagnosis, a surgery has been averted. That does give one satisfaction, undoubtedly. But it’s of a different type from the creative satisfaction that a making a cartoon gives. Creative satisfaction satisfies me first. And that is fun. Medicine and radiology are not fun, but are skills that can be learnt and honed. Being in two professions as different as these give one a sense of balance, proportion and some real-life perspective.

5. Do you find the role of the cartoonist diminishing in the newspaper? There are more illustrations than cartoons offering commentary?

> I think the reverse is true. Since we famously have a young population and young people enjoy humour, laughs, irreverence, visual stimulation and rebellion, then how can cartoons have a poor future? See how standup comedy has taken off in the country.

6. How would you see cartooning shaping itself in the time of tablets and smartphones?

> I don’t know. Probably an avenue for many cartoonists who don’t have the space provided by big publishers to access audiences directly and worldwide.

Hmmm. Good to see Morparia welcoming newbies (and possible competition) to the business. Given the nine-year itch, guess the next change will be in 2021. :-)

Tweets of the weekend

Until we find a permanent home for this and given that tweets from people across our business are perhaps the best way to keep tabs on what’s happening, here’s a sample of some gems that I picked over the weekend:

Mahesh Murthy (@maheshmurthy): The most amazing discovery at @TimesNow #Foodie Awards? Arnab standing silently on the sidelines :)

Satbir Singh (@thesatbir): In Goa, time passes so slowly you can almost hear it go hic hoc, hic hoc.

Shishir Joshi (@joshishishir): What do you do whn a boss asks young reporter to pose as visiting actors fan since the office is falling short of crazy lovers of the star?

Prabhu Chawla (@PrabhuChawla): Norway, gujrat porn gate, Coalgate makes it clear: Media just hypes a story and forgets a story behind such stories?

Lynn de Souza (@lynndesouza): If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman. From Lokmat Women Summit at Pune this morning.

Anant Rangaswami (@AnantRangaswami): Just to make you feel better on a Saturday morning. Petrol now costs 1.40 GB Pounds/litre in London….

The Monday Psssst!

Is there more freedom to journalists in newspapers or on news television? Well, the likelihood of stories getting killed before they are carried is huger in the papers given the lead time.

Recently, a commentator in a much-read daily found that his/her column was not carried because it was negative on a key political leader. It may have been for the first time in many years, but the fact that a column was dropped from the commentator who is a reasonably sound name in the media was shocking. And by a newspaper which prides on its ethical way of doing things.

So why am I not taking names? Well, I’m sworn to secrecy. The column in question has appeared elsewhere, and all will soon be forgotten.


(courtesy: Pradyuman Maheshwari & MXM)