Peter Mukerjea. Why no Indian papers in the lounge?

06 Feb,2012


‘Read your comment to Anil Thakraney’s blog’, a friend smsed me a few weeks ago. I said I hadn’t, only to discover that the ‘PM’ on the messageboard was none other than Peter Mukerjea. One of the brightest stars in the media, Peter may have had a setback with 9X and INX Media, but there is no denying that the former Star India CEO has been one of the finest minds and much admired captains of Indian broadcasting. He may be in distant England, but he’s still clued in to what’s happening back home.

I wrote to ‘PM’, thanking him for dropping by and invited him to write for us. He agreed… so here we are.

MxMIndia is proud to present Media Mullings, a new fortnightly column by Peter Mukerjea.

As you’ll figure as you read along, he’s also a brilliant writer.

– Pradyuman Maheshwari


Media Mullings: No desi papers in this lounge!


By Peter Mukerjea


I’m sitting in the Emirates lounge at Heathrow airport about to board a flight to Dubai en route to Mumbai. The flight’s delayed a wee bit as a passenger has suddenly changed his/ her mind about making the journey and so the bags need to be offloaded!


This delay isn’t unusual in itself but but I’m now weighing up my options of how I would spend the next 30-40 minutes having already arrived early and had a glass of wine with a snack, checked my emails etc.


Thankfully there are no TVs in the lounge and I suddenly realise that this is such a pleasant change from the airport lounges in India. So, TV is not an option. I could be on my mobile talking to friends and family but I’ve done that too. As it’s nearing the end of the day, I’ve read my favourite newspaper but then i catch the sight of the newspaper rack and wander across to see what other papers there are and which one I might fancy.


The array of newspapers is fascinating as one would expect in a high quality airport lounge – starting with The Times, The Guardian, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune amongst others from France – Le Monde, der Speigel from Germany, Italy and even Hong Kong. Of course, being the Emirates Lounge you would expect to see papers from the Middle East in Arabic and also in English such as Gulf News and Khaleej Times.


As I’m en route to India, I’m quite eager to read an Indian paper, even if it’s may be a day old, but given that the news changes so little on a day-to-day basis , I knew I wouldn’t miss much if I got hold of yesterday’s paper either. But, no such luck. There wasn’t a single Indian paper in sight – not today’s and not even yesterday’s!


I thought there must be a run on the Indian papers and that they must have all gone. So, I asked the lovely lady at the desk but she claimed ignorance and said that she didn’t think that they carried any Indian newspapers. She politely pointed me to the business centre and suggested that I check on the net.


Now that surprises me. We’re the world’s largest democracy and we have some fairly decent, vaguely readable newspapers being published but they weren’t part of the offering in an English lounge of the Emirates airline. How astounding I thought.


But I figured that the newspaper executives in India or their distribution agents couldn’t care less about ensuring the presence of Indian newspapers in such a place. After all, it couldn’t be too much of an effort to get these to all the lounges in at least the primary destinations around the world. After all, Spanish, Mandarin , English and Hindi are being touted as being ‘the’ four most widely spoken languages in the world today and yet we don’t have at least a presence of our national language papers in this lounge.


Or that they are so far ahead of the game that they believe that it isn’t worth putting newspapers in lounges and those who are interested will find what they need to know on the internet. How true and how clever and so ahead of the curve.


But the airline ought to reflect their clients’ needs and consider keeping Indian papers for so many of us who travel on their airline.


And on the subject of Indian TV channels, particularly the news channels, I was pleasantly surprised recently to find that NDTV 24×7 had suddenly appeared on my TV screen at home in England, even though I don’t recall subscribing to it. I’m not complaining. And it’s not like Virgin or Sky give anything for free. When I found out that this news channel was available within my existing service, I was delighted and rushed to watch with much enthusiasm rather like a dog rushing to fetch a ball that he’s just been thrown.


The excitement, equally rapidly, changed to annoyance when I actually started watching the channel. And I used to love watching NDTV once upon a time. And then after watching for a while I figured what was wrong with it. There were far too many commercial breaks. But what was even more annoying was that there were no commercials.


In India we sometimes forgive the news channels for the poor quality of the news, thanks to the fact that the commercials occasionally make you chuckle or they provide some light entertainment and relief from the often horrid news that sits in between the commercial breaks. But then the penny dropped – it must be OFCOM – the name of the body that governs broadcasters and has been set up to make sure that they are staying within rules of decency and broadcast regulation in the UK.


Thankfully they also govern – on commercial time usage, and heavily penalise any broadcaster who overruns the permissible secondage as stipulated by OFCOM. In India no one bothers and it’s a free-for-all, despite there being regulation to that effect.


Consequently the broadcasters in India stuff the commercial breaks with as many seconds of commercial time as they can sell, put logo after logo on the tickers and call it branding or ‘added value’.


And given that the same news channel feed is delivered to the UK, they are governed by OFCOM which means that these commercial breaks with super excessive secondage will not be allowed to go on air.


NDTV, it seems, is having to fill the gaps in their commercial time on the UK service with stacks of inhouse and channel promos. The promos are never as sexy or funny as the TV commercials and filling the channel with boring promos makes the channel’s news service look seriously out of sync with any other home-grown news channel available in the UK. They really ought to do something about this and tighten up the volume of commercial time being stuffed into the breaks in India. Sadly though, this applies to almost all the channels in the country who find it hard to raise the prices of their commercial time and in order to increase revenue, they simply expand the duration of the commercial breaks knowing that no one’s watching. But then, when the channel is transported overseas , it becomes a messy channel indeed and no wonder it does not get too much local advertising in the UK , for the UK , from the UK. Surely there’s a smarter way to do this.


At least they cannot say ‘I wasn’t aware of it ‘. No prizes for guessing who said this when and in what context.


Post a Comment 

12 responses to “Peter Mukerjea. Why no Indian papers in the lounge?”

  1. Trichy Radhakrishna says:

    Dear Peter,
    Quite an interesting article. I am glad that your ability to pen is coming out for good reason and I am sure the media will beneit from the humer and critic in you. In fact many know you as a successful Chief Executive. In fact I find in you a VERY GOOD TEACHER. You can impart knowledge with ease to the next generation who wish to take up career in Media which is no doubt a growing IVth estate.
    Wish you all the best.
    Well, if you put on POLICE sunglasses your appearance would be grand (purely personal view!)

  2. John says:

    Peter, After reading recently of the 24 minute commercial breaks on one television channel not a million miles from the next Emirates lounge, your free booze musings (just one glass of wine, honest Captain) at Gate 11 reminds me of the saying “be careful what you wish for” There was a time when the Nine O’Clock News on STAR Plus was in grave danger of having to be renamed the 24 Minutes Past Nine O’Clock News due to the length of the non Ofcom regulated commercial breaks that preceded it. Nothing succeeds like success I guess and it’s always good to pay for preferred placement spots “right next to Dr Roy” so it’s good to know trends set at STAR by their spectacularly successfully sales team (and NDTV news programming) are being emulated around the world even to this day. At least on a 24 hour news channel, it’s easier to get a fixed start time for the news – even if there are (still) some big gaps in the middle. Love the sunglasses, John.

    • PM says:

      Thanks John for the insight about the 24 min past 9pm news! I’m just surprised that despite having a full news channel and so many years having passed by, the number of advertising breaks haven’t receded. Isn’t that odd ? And surely there’s good reason now ( 2012 ) to have a separate construct for an overseas news which is sold and distributed internationally for all those that are interested in one of the world’s fastest growing economies. A news channel with proper anchors and a world class news service and far fewer breaks!

  3. Gautam Mukerjea says:

    There used to be good news and bad news once upon a time. Good and bad still remain but quality of disseminating news has become sad. And one of the worst things to happen is everyone wants to follow the old, dying marketing principle of ‘differentiator’ instead of following what is best for them in the markets they operate in. In the process, you have ( especially in the news tv world ) everybody using the words ‘ exclusively on’ and ‘you heard it first on’….how ridiculous is that….

  4. DB says:

    Good read. As a former journalist, I wasn’t too surprised though to see there were no Indian newspapers in Dubai’s airport lounge. That is entirely because, only Indians love to tom-tom this “world’s largest democracy” line. As if that counts for anything! India’s international presence is weak because after Independence, it failed to stake its claim to stronger ground. And India’s external relations, as we all know, is pathetic, to say the least.

  5. Dilshad Master says:

    Hey Peter. One of the reasons why I insisted that NDTV produce short 2-3 min interstitials that had about 2 week’s shelf value. Filled up the gaps well. Obviously not a lesson well learnt. .

  6. Dilshad Master says:

    Hey Peter. One of the reasons why I insisted that NDTV produce short 2-3 min interstitials that had about 2 week’s shelf value. Filled up the gaps well. Obviously not a lesson well learnt. .

  7. Sai Nagesh says:

    Dearest Pete,
    Nice article and Great to know that you will be writing here regularly. If this article is any indication, I am sure ‘Mullings’ will be too mild a word to describe what you are going to be writing on/about !!!
    Looking forward to reading the future ones too.
    Knowing you , I am sure they will be not just thought provoking but showing the way ahead too.
    Thank you MXM for getting Peter on board.
    Cheers !!

  8. Rakesh Endlaw says:

    Hi Peter – Crisp & well written piece. Looking forward to insights from your extensive experience globally. Great reading this.

    Rakesh Endlaw

  9. Pradeep Prabhu says:

    Peter – I am hopeful that things will change for good. The quality of leadership in India is as bad as the thought leaders can afford to be.

    Its high time to sit up and listen to reality.