Thirteen Reasons why 2013 was a #Fail for the Indian Media

31 Dec,2013

By Pradyuman Maheshwari


Okay, so we are all going to down our sorrows tonight… in alcohol, in parties, stuck on the road in traffic, at office, on television watching Kapil Sharma for the nth time or an awards show or some other semi-entertaining stuff. Or just a quiet moment with family and friends.


But before we do that, let’s take one last look at the 2013 and wish we could put some of the downers behind  us. Sadly, they can’t.


Here goes my list of 13…


Tarun Tejpal

Tehelka founder. Alleged rapist. And as it has emerged, misused his position in recent years to achieve his ends.


Mumbai Photojournalist Gangraped

The media was at the forefront of the movement against atrocities to women through the year. And then one of our very own was gangraped. On an assignment, in daylight, in Mumbai, a city that prides itself to be safe for women. The lady is fine, but the scars will never go away.


Hindustan Times Paid News

And we thought that the corporate types running Hindustan Times knew what happens when you devalue a news brand by going in for a Medianet-like paid content service. Agreed there’s a footnote, but it’s in fineprint and the paid-for stories aren’t tagged ‘Paid Content’. Why, just why?


Paid News still rules

The recent elections saw many instances of paid news around the time of the elections with the EC asking the law ministry to make it an electoral offence. However,  what about the publications publishing the news? Shouldn’t those indulging in the corrupt practice also be suitably penalized, even if means losing the RNI registration/licence.


Minister’s priorities

Even the most sensible of politicians do bizarre things as I&B ministers. We’ve had one of the earliest ones in independent India banning film songs on Vividh Bharati. One went ballistic against news channels. Another frowned upon ads. Our current minister – Manish Tewari – isn’t bad news, but he could do with a better set of priorities. And not just talk about contradictions and paradoxes in his speeches. Also, not interfere in DD news.


Industry divided

The various industry associations in media,advertising and entertainment are a divided lot. The officebearers may be good friends otherwise, but their associations are often at loggerheads. And paying the price for all of this is the industry.


Abby has really turned Shabby

Of the various awards held in the country, the Creative Abby has turned out to be shabbiest. The biggest in the business (Lowe, Ogilvy) have not been participating, there are disputes about scam ads and last year we even had some complaints about a few awardwinning ads being plagiarized. All practitioners need to get together and discuss the future of the Oscars of the creative advertising business.


State of magazine media in question as ABP sells BusinessWorld

In a sense one should be thankful that it was sold, and not shut like the Indian editions of People, GEO and Marie Claire magazines. But BusinessWorld is an iconic brand and was owned by a large, prosperous media group like Ananda Bazar Patrika. The fact that the group lost interest in the magazine and found they couldn’t make the kind of money out of the publication was a sorry commentary on the state of the magazine media. Thankfully, Annurag Batra bought it on behalf of a group of unnamed investors.


Professionals v/s Families

There are many large and successful business conglomerates run by professionals, but in the world of media, not many professionals have done too well when the family gets active in the business. Two years back, The Hindu brought in professionals on the editorial and business front. It was a bold decision. But in 2013, both Editor and CEO were booted out. I don’t think any rightminded (or leftminded, given it’s Hindu) editor would ever want to join the paper at the helm after this.


Corporate influence in media

We all agree that the media must ask the tough questions, often being cynical when there is no need for being one. But that’s what it used to be. In a recent accident, the identities of the owners of a car that hit two others was hushed up by most media. The name of the corporate cropped up, but the news wasn’t investigated  in the same way as any other high profile accident case. Is this the influence of big business on the media? Why is it that media entities not directly owned or managed by big businesses also buckle under pressure? Wake up, guys. There’s no point being in the news media when you are going to crawl even there’s no one asking you to do so.


Retrenchment rules

Staff sackings are not a new story in the media. Some do it with a jhatka, others prefer halal. The best of newsmedia organizations have seen sackings. This writer has been involved with many over the years. The question is how you do it, and how sensitive you can be to the employee’s personal life. We hear of many cases of people opting out of journalism and media companies because of the way employers behave.


Most media schools suck!

The media wave of the 1990s and 2000s ensured a mad rush for the media and mass communication courses across the country. Everyone wanted to be a Piyush Pandey, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt and now Arnab Goswmi. But the faculty sucks at even the AICTE-approved institutes – mediocre professionals and trainers teach at these places, the curriculum is pathetic, fee cheques and not a rigorous entrance procedure is the only barrier for entry. The result: products of a large number of media schools are below par.


Hold a mirror, News Media!

What upset one most about the Hindu’s humbling of the Editor and CEO as well as the termination of edition and employee services at Outlook group’s publications was the way in which both were done. Is it the same media that otherwises sermonizes on how the world should behave? Hold a mirror, guys. Mr Ram, did you really need to write that looong letter detailing your misgivings about the editor and CEO? Thankfully, both of them have found jobs, but had it been in another era with no social media, people would’ve doubted their bonafides.  Ditto with the Outlook group, the same magazine company that has Vinod Mehta at its helm…. how could they not have the decency to even speak to employees who got to know about the closure from a tweet?


But there’s hope…

Indrajit Gupta fights for PR exec

You don’t hear too often about editors taking up the cause of PR professionals who are subjected to harassment for a negative story in their publication. IG (as Indrajit is called) took up the case and cause for the late Charudatta Deshpande and continues to do so


Arindam Chaudhari thrown out of Mid-Day

Yes, Mid-Day actually junked his column after it realized that it’s giving the paper a bad name (now Kushan Mitra needs to do the same at Pioneer)


Shashi Sinha cements the industry

If there’s a Nobel Peace Prize for the Indian media, IPG Interbrands CEO Shashi Sinha should walk away with the awards. Hands down.  He tried his best to cleanse the Creative Abby at Goafest, in fact he did manage that and what happened in the 2013 edition was not really his doing. And now he’s building consensus on television measurement amongst broadcasters and advertisers and media agencies as head of BARC’s technical committee.


Uday Shankar, Punit Goenka, Raj Nayak… entertainment merchants think big

There’s hope for 2014 as our entertainmentwallahs are truly dreaming big. Uday Shankar is thinking big at Star India, Punit Goenka has planned some 10 new channels for Zee, and Raj Nayak pulled a mega serial in 24 with ease.  And you can’t keep Sony out of things for too long. Three cheers!


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