Friday, 29 January 2016

Call for Papers: Journal of Media Watch

Following from Deepak Ranjan Jena, Managing Editor, Media Watch

Call for Papers: Journal of Media Watch
Topic: Mutualisation of News and Engaging Media

Important Dates :
March 15, 2016 (Abstract Submission)
May 15, 2016 (Full Paper Submission)

In 2010, the former editor of Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, showed the world about the power of publicness through his twitter posting revolting against the court injection on Guardian to report on the dumping of toxic chemicals by the company ‘Trafigura’. Trafigura became viral in twitter; the result is more vigorous news stories and personal comments that could have possibly escaped from the newspaper pages. Calling this as ‘Mutualisation of News’, Rusbridger underlined the collaboration of professionals and non-professionals in the dissemination of news. From a carefully filtered and controlled letters to editor, the role of readers or news consumers have traversed such distance that news are no produced by a collaborative effort. The Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ is a typical example of how the laymen or those having a journalistic flair or at least an opinion work together to build an interactive or collaborative news platform, a completely different experience social media platforms provide.
As mutualisation gears its definition to wider spectrum, this issue of The Journal of Media Watch looks at the possibilities of using this concept in the developing world for journalism and news media. Journalism pays sustained attention to the coverage of ideas, policies, programs, activities and events dealing with the improvement of the life of people.
As far as thedeveloping world is concerned, media plays a pivotal role in keeping any eye not only on the government policies, but the larger human and societal developmental issues in the country. However the media in the developing world, both press and electronic, in entangled in the serious competition amidst the clutter where they consider political tussle and power struggle as the prominent grey matter to boost their readership or viewership. Though the 24 hour news channels ‘report’, these are often news pieces ‘to inform’ rather than ‘to change’. This is same with the revolution of e-papers as well; print shifted to online that eased readability for larger users, but added nothing to the wide opportunities that the online platform provide news media. The role of people in this process is limited to sharing the news links and posting comments only to the selective news allowed by the newspaper. The downturn for journalism in developing countries lies here, while exciting opportunities are wide open. If in 1969, George Varghese, a prominent journalist in The Hindustan Times could make revolutionary changes through his fortnightly column, ‘Our Village Chatera’ depicting the life in the village of Chatera that opened the windows towards the rural life of India, in this era where technology has put forward immense opportunity for journalists to embark on ‘reporting for changes’, we cannot see such advancements in journalism.
News is now a collaborative effort, and with developmental reports, it is even more demanding. Many a times reporters need to get various insights into the wider spectrum of an issue which is possible only through considering audience’ or reader’s point of view. On this special issue Journal of Media Watch invites empirical and objective research papers on the following topics:
§  Mutualization of news               
§  Engaging news media
§  Community journalism                                 
§  Collective media ownership
§  Prosumers                                                  
§  Shared media platforms
§  News plurality                                            
§  Paywall and Firewalls               
§  Hyperlocal media                              
§  Diversity innovations      

Dr. Sony Jalarajan Raj
Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Media Watch
Department of Communication
7-166C, 10700-104 Avenue
MacEwan University, Edmonton, AB, Canada, T5J 4S2
Tel: 001-587-778-2426

For detail information regarding paper submission, please visit the journal’s website:

E-mail your submission to    

Thursday, 28 January 2016

National short film festival in Pune University

Savitribai Phule Pune University’s DMCS (Department of Media and Communication Studies) is organizing a national level short film festival in February 2016. Entries from across India are invited. The film festival will be held on 18th.19th and 20th February 2016. The categories are fiction, nonfiction and animation. The last date for submitting your short film is 8th February.
With the Indian film scene constantly reinventing itself, young filmmakers are exhibiting their skills and ideas like never before. In its 25th year, the Dept. of Communication Studies, aims to showcase the creativity of student filmmakers, DMCS has been conducting this film festival for the past 5 years. As this is the milestone 5TH edition, we have included additional categories and made it a 3 day festival.
DMCS NSFF will provide young filmmakers an arena to present their short films to be judged by eminent TV and film personalities as well as prominent DMCS alumni. In the previous editions of this film festival has witnessed the likes of Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, Vijay Tendulkar, Nagesh Kukunoor and Anupam Kher.
Dr. Madhavi Reddy (department head) expresses her enthusiasm saying “students should make the most of this opportunity”
For further information, follow this link:-
Tejas: 09049349155

Randhir: 09850059631

Monday, 25 January 2016

Print is the new ‘new media’

Following suggested by Ganesh Puranik:

DECEMBER 7, 2015

It can’t notify you when a work email arrives, can’t be tweeted mid-sentence, and won’t die without a charger. Even better, it’s finite. 
It’s also supposed to be dead. For years, the new media vanguard has preached “digital first” and the death knell has sounded again and again for print, as legendary magazines moved online or ceased publication altogether. Now, 20 years into the digital revolution, print is making something of a comeback. Tablet, Politico, and The Pitchfork Review are among the successful digital publications that have ventured into print. Nautilus,Kinfolk, and California Sunday Magazine have launched in print in the last few years, and their audiences are passionate and growing.
Tablet, a digital magazine for curious Jews (and their friends) that has been around since 2009, issued its first print edition in November. Editor in chief Alana Newhouse says certain stories, including fiction and “deeper” news and culture pieces, work better on paper. “I don’t think the internet metabolizes certain kinds of stories properly,” she says. 
Tablets print edition is substantial, in size and quality: The pages are artful, the text is generously spaced. The first issue contains three hefty features, including a story on a Japanese manga-style comic about Anne Frank, plus a photography spread, a work of fiction, and a meditation on a Saltine. Tablet’s website receives around 1.5 million readers a month, and the first edition had a print run of 15,000.
“Some of our best content deserves to be on the newsstand or on someone’s coffee table for a while,” says Mark Oppenheimer, Tablet’s editor at large. You can reach more people online, he says, but at what cost? He points to a feature in the magazine by Brett Ratner about the role of Miami Beach Jews in the birth of “modern American cool” after World War II, introduced by a memorable full-color double-page photo of beachgoers.“A perspective-altering piece is worth more for 10,000 in print than as a brief distraction for 100,000 online,” says Oppenheimer.
Samir Husni predicted print’s recovery, if that’s indeed what this is. A University of Mississippi professor known online as Mr. Magazine, he rattles off websites turned print magazines, including CNET, Catster, Dogster, Allrecipes, WebMD, and Net-a-Porter, three of which launched this year. They are among 204 new print magazines to launch in 2015, by Husni’s count, which he maintains on his website and updates monthly. Those who abandoned print, lured by the elusive promise of digital, are beginning to repent, says Husni. “Print is the faithful spouse. Ninety-five percent of the money is in print.”
Ruth Jamieson, a UK-based journalist and author of Print is Dead. Long Live Print, says there’s a symbiosis between the melee of the Web and the contained space of a print magazine. “Far from digital being the grim reaper for print,” she says, “it’s actually made it easier to start a magazine.” The Web enables publishers to find and connect with their audiences, and most editorial operations related to running a magazine can be done online.
An advantage of print over the Web, says Newhouse, of Tablet, is that it doesn’t have to appeal to everybody. In fact, it’s better when it doesn’t. “This magazine might not be for you,” she writes in her letter from the editor in the first print edition. People want to be part of a tribe, and magazines with tailored content for an ardent readership reinforce a strong sense of community. “We launched to a loyal and excited audience,” says Tablet’s Oppenheimer. “We don’t have a stereotype of who they are, but we think they’re willing to be the tribe for this magazine.”
Husni agrees that magazines foster community. “It’s like a membership card you receive once a week, or month.” Costly membership cards are one way to build a tribe, and the fact that they’re tangible and collectible is important. “It’s primal,” says Jamieson. “You can replicate the content online and people will still want the physical object.”
A magazine is now a brand: It’s a podcast, a social media embed, an article, a homepage, an app. Why not printed pages? One thing is clear: A resurgence in luxe print magazines won’t save the newspaper industry, which must compete with the immediacy of the Web.
While some new print magazines have demonstrated success, many, like Tablet, are too new to have a track record. Some experiment with funding models, or they begin their lives as startups with enough funding to last one or two issues before finding a more permanent solution.
This summer, Josh Kinney, a Philadelphian and former print journalist, revived the Philadelphia Evening Post, a century-old newspaper, with a Kickstarter campaign and an unpaid two-person team. He’s on the third issue now, and says the paper has been well-received by readers. “Old people like it because they’re nostalgic,” says Kinney, and hipsters “swarm all over it like they just found this new, trendy, nostalgic thing.” But it’s not close to financially sustainable yet. Kinney distributes the Postfor free, and says that covering the $5,000 printing cost per issue through ads is tough.
Sure, say the cynics, there will always be enthusiasts, and the Web will help hopeful publishers find enough of them to fund a Kickstarter or two, but the whims of Williamsburg hipsters won’t pay your mortgage. (A Williamsburg favorite, Modern Farmer, died briefly due to financial trouble, but has since returned, saved by a loyal reader, according to the New York Times.) Jamieson doesn’t think print’s only appeal is nostalgia. She says that fledgling print-after-digital publishers are still finding their footing, but will soon become truly profitable.
“You don’t have to be an artisanal Luddite” to like print magazines, says Mike Miller, deputy managing editor at the Wall Street Journal. The legacy stalwart launched a glossy fashion magazine 7 years ago in what Miller described as “a gamble.” A year later, in light of its success, the paper is considering launching a second magazine, says Miller, and will distribute a one-off edition with this week’s Friday’s newspaper. “What we learned is that readers love holding on to glossy mags and curling up with them.”
It seems print and digital can co-exist after all. The new won’t replace the old. The new will hammer the old, deform it, reform it, reconceive, reconfigure, but the old won’t disappear.
In an ironic reversal, it’s the old guard that thinks the move to print is crazy. “They think it’s retrograde,” says Newhouse, “I think it’s innovative.”
Chava Gourarie is a CJR Delacorte Fellow.

Abstracts from Journal of Media Watch Journal (January-April 2016)

Following from Mr. Deepak Ranjan Jena:

The Journal of Media Watch
January-April 2016

DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/87410
Race for Virtual Reality Monopolization and the Predatory Arise of News Media Monoliths

Dr. Sony Jalarajan Raj
The Journal of Media Watch

The New York Times has announced its gate-crashing into the world of virtual reality news presentation with heavy marketing strategies, even though there have been many innovative and creative attempts of virtual reality news explorations that have already made land marks. NYT’s systematically designed market shaking virtual reality attempt has been made real by covering millions through Google collaborations. The refugee crisis and their struggles in the no man’s land have been filmed and titled as ‘The Displaced’ for the first virtual reality view of The New York Times through the Google cardboard viewer. Over and above, a news worthy experimentation, it can be cited as an intelligent and throat cut market strategy of the NYT to sell the news as a global product.
The convergence of technology and platforms such as smart phones, apps, lenses and satellites have enabled both the Google and NYT to tell the stories of refugee kids from South Sudan, Ukraine and Syria. The sad stories of the soul searching refugee kids have become a free and sponsored staple diet for millions of NYT subscribed readers across North America. Those readers have experienced close-ups, panoramic views and pans by subscribing a printed newspaper. While celebrating the tears right in front of their eyes, the NYTexpect that their news consumers may get a unique sense of empathy with the subjects and news events. Diversified geographies may frequently appear in front of the consumers’ eyes by subscribing a print enhanced with apps, smart gadgets and lens.
Is this a new form of news dissemination/story telling or promoting a technological product for a brand recognition? As cat video tech ventures such as Snapchat, Vine, and Periscope have started redefining the time and space concept of news formats, mainstream media moguls have sensed the heat and pressure to innovate and compete. Being in the limelight is important to make one’s presence visible. More Virtual Reality experiments are coming from tech ventures of Oculus Rift, T Brand Studio, Framestore, General Electric and MINI. Hence, yet another virtual reality explosion in the news world is definite.
While the symbiotic relations between the news media and technology reach a crucial juncture, the consumers are becoming more selective and narrow casted. The new challenge is to increase the consumers’ participation in this diversified and technology enhanced news presentation. Hence forgetting the rivalry and the throat cut competitions, new corporate alliances are taking into shape. The giant media corporations of the world are initiating aggressive merging and acquisition strategies to tighten their ownership control and retain their customer base. Takeovers and buy outs in the media industries are becoming the everyday catch phrases in the global stock markets. Along with business strategies and associations, these acquisitions and mergers bring forward technological innovations to tighten the ownership control, increase profit and widen the user experiences for brand loyalties.
Facebook with its new and its acquisition of LiveRail, a San Francisco/California-based online video advertising company, gate crashed into the blue chip 10 most valued stock club among the Standard & Poor’s 500 index listing, whereas Google launched its news data center which is labelled as the power plant for the Internet in Alabama to tap the scribes and monitor the news media under their radar. Along with establishing a ‘news lab’ that collaborates with  journalist and entrepreneurs in providing quality news and information to the world, Google is also on its way to an innovative project—Project Loon—a balloon powered internet (wireless) facility to connect rural and remote areas of the world. NBC is undergoing radical shift and remodeling whereas The New York Time’s collaboration with Microsoft and Apple for their mobile presence is proving successful with its popularity reaching even the Russian readers. Data and value utilization form the main target for all of these corporations.
News and its gatekeepers are getting more influenced by the new start-ups and social media ventures that dominate the social web. Everything is becoming instant and homogeneous. Shifting audience demographics and new entrepreneurships in the information and communication world are eagerly looking at sustaining the marketing and advertising revenues. The Journal of Media Watch presents this issue with more diversified content and uncompromising quality. Enjoy reading the research from scholars across the world beyond time and space differences.

© Media Watch 7 (1) 5-18, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86498

Social Mobilization in the Net Space: Re-Constructed Communication, Identity and Power

Cecilia Fe L Sta Maria-Abalos
College of Arts and Communication, University of the Philippines Baguio, Philippines

The internet as a communication platform for netizens has become the hybrid space for social mobilization to forward political agenda.  A take-off from Manuel Castells’ hypotheses on power and counter-power in the network society, this paper is a reading of “Boycott SM Baguio” Facebook Group Page as a space and site for social mobilization. Using textual analysis as a method, reading of the selected posts revealed that the spatial conditions present in the net space effected the reconstruction of identity, group and public and re-shaped the communication process. Elaborating on these two main points elicited a different kind of social mobilization located in the online space that emerged discourses on power, counter-power, political legitimacyand exacerbated questions on sustainability.
© Media Watch 7 (1) 19-29, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86497

Social Media Mania and the Professional Gratification: An Investigation on the Social Media Exposure and Use of Social Media for News Makeup among the Polish Journalists

Robert NĂȘcek & Krzysztof Gurba
Institute of Journalism and Social Communication
Pontifical University of John Paul II, Poland

Traditional and social media interplay in setting media agenda. Intermedial agenda is still in the nascent state and is one of the most dynamic and uncontrolled phenomenon on the border between professional, staff-produced media and the mostly grassroots, user-generated content of social media. One of the crucial roles in the process of media agenda setting and intermedia agenda setting is played by key TV news producers and popular anchors. Our goal in this paper was to study the range of use of social media by top Polish television journalists in their everyday work. Furthermore, we wanted to get a bigger picture of how social media’s use of key TV anchors and editors influence their gate keeping and frame the content they produce. Our research was placed within the paradigm of agenda-setting theory and was conducted in the first half of 2015 with the use of a questionnaire dedicated to the selected group of top Polish mainstream TV journalists.

© Media Watch 7 (1) 30-43, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86500
What is Political about Political Economy: A Rejoinder to the Fuchs-Winseck Debate

Scott Timcke1 & Derek Kootte2
1School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, Canada
2Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

This paper uses the Winseck-Fuchs debate as a case study in assessing how value preferences shape definitions, predicate logic, and axiomatic reasoning, and in turn influence the analysis of institutions. The study identify and contrast the explanatory power behind different modes of institutional analysis often applied in the study of communication in advanced capitalist societies. Thereafter the study attend to how these modes account for capacity, frame collective actions problems, take account of trade-offs and coalition building, as well as describe behaviour of and within institutions. In the second half of the paper, the study use critical political economic methodologies to examine the ideological coloring of these modes. The study highlight features often overlooked in reductive treatments of states and corporate conglomeration and seek to supplement them with a more sensitive political economic analysis. In this respect, the researchers think there is much scope for communication researchers to contribute to the general analysis of the advantages and problems of political assessment of governance as it relates to the media more broadly.

© Media Watch 7 (1) 44-54, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86490

An analysis of VICE Media’s Expedient  Commodification of Modern Hipster Culture as a Motif of Contemporary Capitalism

Nicholas Ryan Ward 
Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

VICE Media has risen from a local Canadian counterculture magazine to an international corporate giant. Bloomberg Business has valued the company at over $1 billion, while other reputable outlets have placed VICE’s worth at many times that. Remarkably, through its ascension to mainstream relevancy and despite getting into bed with some of the world’s richest and most denounced corporations, VICE has managed to maintain its reputation as a counterculture brand. This qualitative analysis on the evolution of VICE Media presents past interviews and market decisions by VICE owners to exhibit how the company has expediently captured and preserved the attention of millennials through its strategic commodification of 21st century hipsterism. This analysis also relies on the work of prevalent academics and journalists to provide an understanding of VICE, hipsterism and their inherent connection to consumerism. This is an accessible study that demonstrates how VICE identified and harnessed the socio-cultural/socioeconomic phenomenon of hipsterism to amplify its potential as a commercial media institution.
© Media Watch 7 (1) 55-74, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86501

What is Social Media and Why is it Important to Documentary Filmmakers?

Friedrich H. Kohle
Edinburgh University, United Kingdom

Social Media is a binary platform on which all previous forms of media converge. Producers are disappointed that social media does not generate the revenues expected. Documentary filmmakers are challenged to understand, adapt and apply this new technology. This paper examines social media, its origins, applications and limitations by reviewing the predictions made by media theorists. The author conducted case studies and interviewed practicing documentary filmmakers such as the producer of ‘The Act of Killing’. Focus groups among digital natives and immigrants explored their perception of social media. Research includes the production of three documentaries to apply knowledge gained. Less than 5 per cent of digital natives and immigrants investigated perceive social media as a promotional tool. Self-expression, creativity, sharing information globally takes priority.

© Media Watch 7 (1) 75-83, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86493
Digital Detoxification: A Content Analysis of User Generated Videos Uploaded on YouTube by Facebook Quitters

Gurpreet Kour
Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad, India

Social media has not only transformed an individual’s interaction pattern but has also integrated into wide range of interests and practices of online users. This social network facilitates self construction, identity performance and social integration on one hand while mediating fake relationships, unethical practices and invading privacy on the other. This study aims to understand why some Facebook users are quitting this online platform. Content analyses of YouTube videos of those who claim to be Facebook quitters have been analyzed to conceptualize emerging themes. This will be a study inclusive to interpretative paradigm to understand the reasons leading to this digital detoxification and enthusiastic non-Facebook experience. The present study extends this line of research to assess the range of identity claims that users tend to make for constructing online self-identity on Facebook and to investigate how it has affected the decision to quit. Implications and future research directions of digital detoxification by quitting Facebook are discussed.
© Media Watch 7 (1) 84-91, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86496

Role of the Media in Africa’s Democratization Quest: A Case Study of Ghana

Dennis Moot
Ohio University, Athens, USA

In most African states, political openness and tolerance is measured by the non-existence of government censorship, and also the ability of the media to operate without fear. In agreement with the debate posited by Wasserman (2013) including other scholars suggests that the media is capable of building democratic structures as it provides a platform for continuous discussion, communication and dialogue amongst various stakeholders within the state. The objectives of this paper is to assess the disadvantages of sensationalism in the media on the democratic development of Ghana.
© Media Watch 7 (1) 92-104, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86494

Fictional Portrayals of Young People in Chinese and American Juvenile Delinquency Films: A Comparative Study

Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia

This study discusses the differences between Chinese youth film and American teen film through a perspective on cultural foundation. The author argue that Confucianism is an alternative that greatly affects the depiction of young characters and the causal relationship of morality and fate of the characters in Chinese films. In Confucian philosophy, ‘kingdoms’ (guo) and ‘family’ (jia) are equally considered inviolable. ‘Family’ occupies a central position in Confucian culture. Filial piety is a virtue of respect for one’s parents and ancestors. This study attempts to provide a picture of juvenile delinquency depicted in both contemporary Chinese and American youth films. This study argues that ‘juvenile delinquency’ indicates any failure in, or omission of, ‘family’ and ‘kingdoms’. The objective of such a comparison is not to advocate for either Chinese or American youth cinema in portraying juvenile delinquency, but to promote a better understanding of the strengths and impacts of youth cinema and youth culture. It is argued that the depictions of juvenile delinquency expose the social discontent of youths in Chinese youth films.
© Media Watch 7 (1) 105-115, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86492

Corporate Social Responsibility: Relevance of MTN’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ Programme in Nigeria

University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria

As continued production and rendering of service is enabled, in this instance, through varying product range as it pertain mobile tele-communication, MTN in Nigeria is attempting to further its CSR bid through the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” programme. The need to evaluate its efficacy is premised on continued programming, participation and exactitude of appeal to the public and organization alike in line with stated philosophy/mission of the latter. In so doing, the survey design was employed using structured questionnaire and findings reveal conformity with all assertions while the researchers recommend allowance for especially challenged citizens (prospects) as well as dialectical variation to incorporate all and sundry.
© Media Watch 7 (1) 116-128, 2016
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2016/v7i1/86499

Thriving in the Digital Reality of the Cyber World: Towards a New Teaching and Learning Design

Soumya Jose
Vellore Institute of Technology University, India

The digital literacy and awareness are now not just bound with education. The digital expansion is now a part of social, political, cultural, economic, community, and intellectual life. The education systems at business schools need to help future managers to understand and benefit from their engagement with digital technology and digital cultures. Yet, only a little research has been carried out on the conceptual implications in implementing this shift in curriculum in Indian B Schools. The young minds today are living in a digital reality. The role of various ICT programs in elementary education has helped them to exercise, explore and perform in the digital world. This chapter tries to bring out the importance of various digital world entities in understanding the digital communication better. The implementation of these concepts in our curriculum needs a transformation from formal pedagogic techniques to “cybernetically” distributed informal pedagogies of digital learning. This paper proposes the teaching and learning designs by which the student can understand the digital ecology of communication sphere.

For more information about the journal and conference papers, please write to the Editor, Media Watch at: (Tel: 94395-37641)

Friday, 22 January 2016

Intercollege festival of student films

Following from The FirstCut 2016 Team
Registrations for FirstCut 2016, the Intercollege festival of student films shall close on 25th January 2016. We have received a lot of films from colleges across the country! And we would like FLAME's incredible talent pool to showcase their films at the event!

You may submit your films under 3 categories -
a. Short films  Fiction - Duration: 3-20 minutes
b. Short films Non-Fiction - Duration : 3-20 minutes
c. Nano films - Duration : 30 sec-3 minutes (ad films, spoofs, music videos etc can be submitted in this category)
Any film made on or after 31st Jan 2015 is eligible for the fest so do send in your films before deadline! And if you haven't made one yet, just shoot a super-short film for NANO and send!

Any if you know any friends from other institutes who've made films, do spread a word!  
Like our Facebook Page -

Here's the link to filmmaker Kabir Khan (Phantom, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, New York) promoting Firstcut 2016 -
Here's the link to producer Madhav Roy Kapur (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag) promoting FirstCut 2016 - 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Media Companies That The Modi Government Must Scrutinise To Fulfill Its Promise Of Ending Crony Capitalism

From Caravan magazine,

By KRISHN KAUSHIK | 19 January 2016

Through loans and investments, Mukesh Ambani, Mahendra Nahata and the industrialist Abhey Oswal have given the five media companies funds that range from tens to hundreds of crores of rupees. As a result, the control that the three businessmen wield over these media networks varies from 20 to over 70 percent.
Filings with the registrar of companies in the ministry of corporate affairs have revealed that five Indian news media companies—NDTV, News Nation, India TV, News24 and Network18—are either indebted to Mukesh Ambani, the richest Indian and the owner of Reliance Industries, or to Mahendra Nahata, an industrialist and associate of Ambani’s, who is also on the board of Reliance’s new telecom venture, Reliance Jio.
Through loans and investments, Ambani, Nahata and the industrialist Abhey Oswal have given the five media companies funds that range from tens to hundreds of crores of rupees. As a result, the control that the three businessmen wield over these media networks varies from 20 to over 70 percent. This is a cause for concern for the freedom of speech in this country. The state of affairs also raises questions about monopolistic practices that may be in conflict with the competition laws of India.
On 12 August 2014, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, TRAI, published a paper titledRecommendation on Media Ownership. In its opening remarks, the paper said, “The right to freedom of speech is essential for sustaining the vitality of democracy. This is why the right is sacrosanct; it is fiercely protected by the media. The question that arises is whether reposing such a right in the media simultaneously casts an obligation on the media to convey information and news that is accurate, truthful and unbiased.” “What happens in the media,” the paper went on to state, “is the concern of the entire country.”
The TRAI had highlighted this belief in the context of its argument that the ownership of media companies by a handful of entities would increase the “possibility of misuse of the rights of the media for interests that are not in the larger public good.” The paper warned against such structures because of their “negative impact on media diversity and plurality.” Elaborating on these fears, it stated, “There may be thousands of newspapers and hundreds of news channels in the news media market, but if they are all ‘controlled’ by only a handful of entities, then there is insufficient plurality of news and views presented to the people.”
A day after the paper was released, R Jagannathan, the former editor of the Indian news website Firstpost, published an editorial on the website that declared, “Trai’s media ownership curbs make no sense: half of India’s media may have to shut down.” Jagannathan opened his piece by saying that TRAI’s recommendations “need to be thrown in the nearest dustbin.” Arguing that the lack of corporate finance in media companies was no assurance of an impartial media, Jagannathan valiantly defended the current structure, going so far as to assert that the TRAI’s recommendations would only create a more opaque system. “If corporates want to run media houses,” he noted, “they will do so, Trai or no Trai.” Jagannathan’s blanket dismissal of the recommendations was not surprising; only perhaps, a little ironic. The website whose editorial direction he was steering at that time, and on which he had published this point of view, is a part of Network18, a media conglomerate that owns CNN-IBN, IBN 7, CNBC Awaaz, CNBC TV18, IBN Lokmat and Firstpost.
In his editorial, Jagannathan said, “Given the growing non-viability of media, a lot of corporate money has come in to support news media.” Nahata and Ambani appear to excel in extending such support. Since television news in India is not a lucrative business, the generosity of these two businessmen is called upon frequently. Such favours, it is safe to conclude, are not acts of philanthropy.
Transactions of this nature are rarely straightforward. As the TRAI paper observed, “there are numerous other ways by which an entity can exercise control over another.” This prophetic finding is validated through the complicated structures that both Ambani and Nahata have used to invest in the five media companies. The control that they exert over these groups is a function of the investments they have made through direct loans, Optionally Fully Convertible Debentures (OFCDs)—loans that can be converted into shares at the investor’s discretion—and direct ownership of shares.
The two centerpieces of this complex jigsaw puzzle are Shinano Retail, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance, and Vishvapradhan Commercial Private Limited (VCPL). VCPL was earlier owned in part by Shinano and another Reliance subsidiary. As I had noted in my December 2015 story on NDTV, VCPL’s directors, Ashwin Khasgiwala and Kalpana Srinivasan, were both employees of Reliance. The company was also registered under the same address as Shinano. In an affidavit submitted to the Delhi High Court in September 2015, the income tax department quoted its report from June 2011, stating that VCPL “has no business activity and is not a genuine concern.” In the financial year 2012, VCPL was sold to Infotel Televentures and Skyblue Buildwell, both of which are entities related to Nahata.
In May 2014, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) acquired Network18 for Rs 4,000 crore. A statement on shareholding patterns that was released by Network18 on 30 September 2015 lists Shinano as one of its two promoter groups. Shinano holds 1.85 percent of Network18’s shares. This is a part of the 75 percent stake that RIL owns in Network18.
The transactions that diluted the ownership of Radhika and Prannoy Roy—the co-founders of NDTV—over their channel are slightly more complex. Between 2009 and 2010, the Roys took a loan of Rs 403.85 crore from VPCL and signed an agreement on behalf of Radhika Roy Prannoy Roy Holdings Private Limited, or RRPR—an entity that they set up in 2005, and in which they placed NDTV’s shares beginning mid-2008. The agreement gave VCPL the right to convert this loan into 99.9 percent of RRPR’s equity—effectively, complete ownership—not just during the period of the loan but even after. By the time RRPR got the loan in March 2009, its total shareholding in NDTV was 29.18 percent, and the agreement effectively sold this portion of NDTV’s shares to VCPL. In the 2012 financial year, VCPL received Rs 50 crore from Eminent Networks, a company owned by Nahata. All of these loans were interest-free and unsecured. Although the money Eminent lent to VCPL was much less than the amount that VCPL had lent to RRPR—Rs 403.85 crore—it now owns OFCDs worth the same amount with VCPL. This may also mean that Eminent has now taken over the 29.18 percent of NDTV that VCPL owned. Which entity among these indirectly controls NDTV is not clear at the moment. It is, however, certain that these transactions have resulted in the Roys losing a significant amount of control over their company.
Eminent also features in the account books of News24—a 24-hour Hindi news channel—and E24 Glamour, an entertainment channel. Both News24 and E24 are owned by Anuradha Prasad. As of March 2014, News24 had taken a loan of Rs 12.5 crore from Eminent. This loan was taken in the form of OFCDs. According to the agreement, the OFCDs could be converted into equity at any point during a period of eight years, starting from the date on which the debentures were allotted to Eminent. The debentures were worth approximately 36 percent of News24’s paid-up capital—the amount of its capital that was funded by its shareholders. This loan had originally been given to News24 by another Nahata company, Digivision Holdings, which transferred the debentures to Eminent on 14 November 2013. As of March 2014, Eminent also lent Rs 12.5 crore to E24 Glamour in the form of OFCDs. During the 2013 financial year, E24 Glamour invested close to Rs 63 crore in the form of OFCDs in a company called Oscar Software. Oscar owns over 18.6 percent of News24’s shares. This would mean that E24 Glamour, which is indebted to Eminent, exerts an indirect control over News24.
According to a February 2015 Economic Times report by Rohini Singh and Vasudha Venugopal, the journalist Rajat Sharma’s India TV does not fare much better in this regard either. In September 2012, Nahata’s Infotel—which owns half of VCPL—bought 23 percent of India TV’s shares from Shyam Equities, a company that is related to Reliance Industries. Shyam had bought this stake for Rs 100 crore in 2007. It was sold to Infotel for Rs 12.5 crore.
This sphere of influence also extends to News Nation, a 24-hour Hindi News television channel which is headed by the industrialist Abhey Oswal. Oswal Greentech and Oswal Agro, companies that are owned by Oswal, own 3.64 crore shares in News Nation, which amount to about 50 percent of the channel’s shares. Last year, in November, Digivision Media, (Nahata’s company that owns 50 percent of Infotel) invested Rs 10 crore in News Nation in exchange for 10 lakh non-cumulative redeemable preference shares. A preference share ensures that the holder of the share is assured a fixed sum of money—and on priority over other kinds of shareholders—from the company’s reserves or profits. A non-cumulative preference share would mean that Digivision would not be entitled to claim a foregone dividend that News Nation did not pay in a particular month or year, at a later date. Since the preference share is redeemable, News Nation would have to pay back the amount of money that Digivision had invested in it, on a date that would have been agreed upon by both the companies. The amount that Digivision invested accounts for 13.9 percent of the paid-up capital of News Nation. Shinano already owns 1.3 crore shares in News Nation, which are worth 18 percent of the channel’s equity.
The media groups in which Ambani and Nahata have invested are aligned to all hues of the political spectrum. Prasad, the owner of News24 and E24 Glamour, is married to the Congress leader and Indian Premier League Chairman Rajeev Shukla. She is also the sister of Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is the telecom minister of India. India TV’s Sharma is perceived to be close to the BJP. As a student, he was a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad—the BJP’s student wing—and a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. NDTV’s co-promoter Radhika Roy is the sister of Brinda Karat, a senior Communist Party of India leader. Apart from his shares in News Nation, Abhey Oswal, whose son-in-law Naveen Jindal is an industrialist and a Congress leader, also owns 14.17 percent of NDTV.
This information is already with the government. Not all of these investments were made during the last year, of course. Several of them were made when the Congress government was at the centre. But, the BJP had come to power with promises of ending crony capitalism. Will it act against industrialists such as Ambani and Nahata by initiating an enquiry into the five media houses to provide a non-monopolistic media business?
Three of the ministries that can act against this concentrated ownership of the media—the ministry of corporate affairs, the ministry of information and broadcast, and the ministry of finance—are all headed by Arun Jaitley, who maintains a largely favourable relationship with both the media, and media owners. Jaitley is particularly close to Sharma, who is also deposing for the minister in his defamation suit against Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi.
On 4 January 2016, I sent a questionnaire to Nahata. He responded by saying that his investments in media were not “strategic” but “portfolio investments made from time to time.” According to Nahata, his companies were not acting in concert with any other entity. He added that since he did not “control any media entity,” there is no threat of a monopoly.
Reliance’s spokesperson Tushar Pania responded to my queries by saying: “Reliance group has invested in Network 18 [sic] group of companies through Independent Media Trust. TV 18 [sic] a subsidiary of Network 18 and Shinano, a company 100 [percent] economically owned by Reliance Industries also holds investment in ETV channels.” ETV is a Hyderabad-based satellite television network. “The group,” Pania wrote, “does not hold any media investment in any form apart from this.”
Krishn Kaushik is a Staff Writer at The Caravan.