Jaya’s Rs. 25 crore anniversary gift to newspapers

Giant cut outs of politicians are a rage in south India for long. Now Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa took her publicity campaign further by splashing the front pages of all major Indian newspapers with her government’s first anniversary year ads featuring her in the trademark brown sari.

“One Year of Achievements, Hundred Years Leap Forward” goes the headline of the “Power Jacket” ad which also quotes Jayalalithaa saying that the “vision for Tamil Nadu 2023 is to become by , India’s most prosperous and progressive state with no poverty and where its people enjoy all the basic services of a modern society.”

The ad claims that Jayalalithaa has rejuvenated and restored the glory of the state.

It goes on to say how her government has provided rice at no extra cost, mixies, grinders and electric fans for women at no cost and livestock was distributed for the poor gratis.

The ad says laptops were provide to students free.

According to media reports, the ads of one year of the Jaya regime placed by the Tamilnadu government’s Department of Information and Public Relations, could have cost at least Rs 25 crore.

courtesy: IBNS & India Today

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Reliance openly controls Eenadu TV and the Network18 Group

It may be true that on paper, RIL does not hold any stake in any media company, as the minister stated in Rajya Sabha. However, the Reliance group now openly controls Eenadu TV and the Network18 Group, according to a researched reported by MONEY LIFE FOUNDATION headed by numero uno business investigative journalist  Sucheta Dalal.

India’s largest private sector entity, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, does not have any direct holding in media houses or companies, listed or unlisted in print, broadcast and production. This is the written reply given by minister of state in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, RPN Singh in the Rajya Sabha.

However, since the question may not have been asked correctly, the answer is an incomplete one. Earlier, this year, Independent Media Trust, a trust set up by Mr Ambani’s flagship RIL agreed to fund promoters of both Network18 Media and Investments (Network18) and TV18 Broadcast (TV18) to subscribe to the rights issue of these companies.

Following the deal, Mr Ambani directly or indirectly controls Eenadu TV and the Network18 Group. That is about 30 channels across entertainment and news segments in English and regional languages.

RIL’s deal with Raghav Bahl of TV18 group is one of the most complicated deals of all time. According to a press release, issued by RIL at that time, promoter companies of Network18 and TV18 and the Trust entered into a Term Sheet under which the Trust would be subscribing to the OptionallyConvertible Debentures (OCDs) to be issued by the Promoter Companies.

“Reliance will leverage its deep understanding of the Indian markets-consumer insights, technological expertise, and the ability to build & manage scale-to make this a “win-win” partnership. This will create value and be accretive to the shareholders of RIL,” the Mukesh Ambani group company said in a press release.

This was the first part of the deal. In the second part, Infotel Broadband Services (Infotel), a unit of RIL, signed a memorandum of understanding with both, TV18 and Network18 for preferential access for distributing all contents of the media group companies through its fourth-generation (4G)broadband network. As per the agreement, RIL would divest part of its interest in Eenadu TV (ETV) channels to TV18.

Earlier, RIL had admitted that the company and its group companies invested Rs2,600 crore in Ushodaya Enterprises, the holding company of ETV channels. As per the deal with Mr Bahl, the Mukesh Ambani group divested its 100% interest in ETV news channels, 50% in entertainment channels and 24.5% interest in Telugu channels to TV18.

About two months ago, Moneylife sent a mail to Nilrab Media Private Ltd, which is one of the trustees in RIL’s Independent Media Trust. However, till date neither there is any answer nor there is any reply from Nilrab Media.

More than two decades ago Reliance had made a bid to enter the media by buying the Observer newspaper which it ran half-heartedly and closed down. Anil Ambani, the estranged and debt-strapped younger brother of the RIL chief was leading that effort. The ADAG group controlled by Anil Ambani has large stakes in TV Today and other media companies. (courtesy: Moneylife Digital Team)

Global Warming: Sand Sculpture by Sudarsan Pattnaik

Renowned sand sculptor Sudarsan Pattnaik recently created a 7- feet structure on Puri beach of Odisha, depicting climate change to draw tourists’ attention towards global warming.In his creation, that took around 5 hours to complete, Pattnaik portrayed scorching sun blazing down over a habitation.
Tourists at the beach supported the artiste’s attempt to create awareness about climate change and global warming. Pattanik, who has represented India in over 50 international sand sculpture championships, said, “The sea-level is rising. In Odisha, it is very difficult to come out during the day due to the scorching sun.”

Samay, August 15 : Old lady of Boru Bunder to take on Aveek Sarkar in Bengal

Shine Jacob writes in Business Standard:

Set to launch its first Bengali daily by year-end.

It may well be the clash of the titans in West Bengal’s media industry. The country’s largest media conglomerate, Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), also known as the Times group &  ” The Old Lady Of Bori Bunder” , is set to battle it out in the regional media space with Aveek Sarkar’s family-owned Anandabazar Patrika (ABP). There were speculations that the Bengali newspaper would be named Samay and launched by August 15. The hiring process had been initiated, though the group had not finalised on who would be the editor.

According to sources close to the development, the Times group is planning to launch a Bengali newspaper by the end of this year. While The Times of India is the largest broadsheet daily in the country, Anandabazar Patrika is the largest Bengali newspaper. According to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures, Anandabazar Patrika has a circulation of nearly 1,250,000, while its nearest competitor, Bartaman, has a circulation of 534,000 copies. Other major competitors in the vernacular space are Aajkaal, Sangbad Pratidin, Ganashakti, Sakalbela, Ekdin and NEWZ Bangla.

The plan to launch a Bengali daily is considered to be a move by the Times Group to position itself against ABP in the vernacular space. In Bengali, TOI  has two magazines, Samay and Udita. The Times Group has a strong presence in regional markets, with dailies like Navbharat Times and Sandhya Times (evening tabloid) in Hindi, Maharashtra Times in Marathi and Vijaya Karnataka in Kannada.

Anandabazar Patrika, founded in 1922 by Prafulla Chandra Sarkar, is the largest read Bengali newspaper, with a readership of more than six million, according to Indian Readership Survey reports.

Times conquers Malayalees

In its new TVC, Times of India attempts to conquer the readers of its final frontier with a film on the competitive spirit of the modern Malayalee.

Kerala’s radical political tradition has a new metaphor. Times of India’s launch television commercial captures the Left Front and Right Wing conflict in the state, through an on-water traffic jam.

Created by JWT India, the TVC is a satire that demonstrates the competitive spirit of a modern Malayalee. It is packaged as a commentary on the clash between communism and capitalism, in the state of Kerala.

The narrative is about a typical day in the life of the people of Kerala, which begins with a political stand-off between the two parties on two boats that crash into each other. Very soon, the river is blocked from left bank to right bank, creating a bottleneck in the backwaters. And, hundreds of boats lie moored in a crazy traffic jam.

The symbolic conflict between left bank and right bank, white rice and brown rice, fish curry and fried crabs, man’s own Pulikali (competitive culture) and God’s own Kathakali (narrative culture) add to the statement and compound the chaos.

However, the locals find a way as they use the stranded chain of boats like a bridge over the backwaters – a solution amidst the chaos.

The writer and creative director of the TVC is Senthil Kumar. The director and editor is Shashanka Chaturvedi (Bob). The production house is Good Morning Films.

Read the full article by Shibani Gharat in afaqs!: Final Frontier to War Front

India’s Info Commission: Parking lots for retired civil servants & govt. fixers

Information commissions in India male-dominated: study

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has released a study that takes stock of the functioning of the information commissions in India, which it said are male-dominated and far away from meeting their full potential.

The study, A Rapid Study of Information Commissions – Established Under the Right to Information Laws in India, was released on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the passage of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) in parliament, on May 12.

CHRI’s research team conducted a quick study of the membership of all 29 information commissions (including that of Jammu and Kashmir established under the J&K RTI Act in 2010) against seven parameters.

The findings show that information commissions are far away from meeting their full potential and are male-dominated. Not one woman of eminence has been appointed chief information commissioner anywhere in India. Less than 15 percent of the information commissioners were women.

At least 30 percent of the posts of information commissioners around the country were lying vacant as on May 1, 2012. This includes posts of state chief information commissioner posts in Maharashtra, Manipur and Tripura. Only 83 information commissioners and chief information commissioners had been appointed against 117 posts all over the country. The state information commissions of Jharkhand (six), Tamil Nadu (four) Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh (three each) top the vacancy list.

In 2006-07, a little more than half of the posts in information commissions were occupied by retired civil servants. In 2012, two-thirds of these posts had been cornered by retired civil servants, particularly those from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). The case of Haryana is even more interesting as 50 percent of the membership of the Haryana state information commission is made up of a husband-and-wife team that retired from the IAS.

The J&K state information commission is the only multi-member body to buck the trend of having retired IAS officers on board.

Less than 10 percent of the information commissioners are from the field of journalism and mass media. Governments seem reluctant to trust the eminence and expertise of citizens who have never been civil servants in their lives.

Of serious concern is the fact that three information commissioners served as members of political parties prior to their appointment (in Kerala, Nagaland and Punjab). The RTI Act bars members of the information commissions from being affiliated to political parties. It is not known whether they resigned from the primary membership of the political party before taking on their current jobs.

All information commissions except that of Mizoram have dedicated websites but less than 50 percent of them have uploaded their decisions in appeals and complaints cases disposed until date. Similarly, more than 50 percent of the state information commissions do not display the cause list of cases on their websites. Section 25 of the Central RTI Act makes it mandatory for information commissions to prepare annual reports on the implementation of the law in their jurisdiction. The state information commissions of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu have not uploaded any annual report on their website until date.

While underlining the need for governments at the central and state level to work closely with advocators of transparency to assess the pendency of cases in the information commissions, CHRI Director Maja Daruwala stated, “The size of the information commission should be determined on the basis of objective criteria”. She also stated, “Public access to all decisions of information commissions must become the policy instead of being left to the caprice of the information commissioners.”

Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator at the Access to Information Programme, who led the CHRI research team stated, “Governments and civil society must work together to identify objective criteria for determining the suitability of candidates other than retired civil servants for appointment to the information commissions. The RTI Act intended to provide a diversity of life experience to such bodies from the fields of science, technology, law, management, social service and mass media whereas practice has turned them into parking lots for retired civil servants who are sympathetic to the political establishment.