Media Takes Top Billing

Why was the media making headlines in 2012? From lawsuits to media turf wars to featuring Arnab-mania and more.

WrittenBy:Sunayana Singh
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It’s always interesting when those who give us news feature on it themselves. Especially when it involves disgruntled former employees, legal notices, media turf wars and much more. This year, the media decided to make news themselves – whether for standing up for the truth or dying for it or for twisting it to suit themselves. And then there were others who were in the news just because they’re downright interesting. And the nation had to know.

  • On that note, let’s start with Arnab the-god-of-Indian-television Goswami. Caravan actually featured a mammoth cover story on Arnab’s rise to the king of TRPs in news television in India. The story was pieced together from interviews of those who apparently worked with Arnab and those he supposedly demolished on his way to the top. One way or another, Arnab made the news.
  • Nanao Khwairakpam Dwijamani (Thangjam Nanao Singh), a young video journalist was shot dead while covering a protest in Imphal. You’d be forgiven for not knowing who he is considering his murder barely shook the media – and even when it did, it didn’t take them too long to drop the story. He was killed while covering a protest against the molestation of a 22-year-old Manipuri actor who was sexually assaulted by a Naga over-ground militant on stage in full public view in the town of Chandel. The protesters were demanding the arrest of the accused over ground Naga-militant Lt Col Livingstone Anal. Nanao Singh took a bullet in his chest and died. Was anyone punished for it? Did the media demand any corrective action regarding the murder of one of its own? We’ll let you know as soon as we know. For more, you can read the Newslaundry article
  • There were a few cases of plagiarism. Samar Halarnkar, Editor-at-Large, Hindustan Times, was accused of plagiarism in his piece ‘Not Much On The Plate’, in Hindustan Times, from Frances Moore Lappe’s piece in Yes! Magazine. You can read more about it in our article

Simon Denyer, India Bureau Chief of Washington Post, was accused of lifting quotes from Caravan. Sanjay Baru and Ramachandra Guha who had been quoted in Denyer’s article claimed that they’d never spoken to Denyer and the quotes attributed to him were from an interview they’d given to Caravan in 2011. Read our article

The New Indian Express, which Prabhu Chawla is the Editorial Director of, lifted a story right out of Livemint. Why bother writing your own piece when you can just copy paste someone else’s?

Neither of the parties seemed to be too bothered about the accusations against them.

  • Samir and Vineet Jain of BCCL (Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd), earned themselves an article in The New Yorker titled “Citizens Jain” It was one of the most revealing articles on the workings of the Brothers Jain and how they run a newspaper which has the largest circulation of any English-language newspaper in the world. To quote from the article – “While profits have been declining at newspapers in the West, India is one of the few places on earth where newspapers still thrive; in fact, circulation and advertising are rising. In part, this is because many Indian newspapers, following an approach pioneered by the Jain brothers, have been dismantling the wall between the newsroom and the sales department. At the Times of India, for example, celebrities and advertisers pay the paper to have its reporters write advertorials about their brands in its supplementary sections; the newspaper enters into private-treaty agreements with some advertisers, accepting equity in the advertisers’ firms as partial payment.” And much like Arnab’s cover story, even this one was written without gaining an audience with either of the Jain brothers.
  • Arnab and Times Now made it to the news again. Former chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Sawant sued Times Now for Rs 100 crore in a Pune civil court. Reason? While reporting on a provident fund scam allegedly involving the then sitting judge of the Calcutta High Court, Justice PK Samanta, Times Now carried a photo of Justice Sawant instead. The Pune court directed the channel to pay Rs 100 crore as damages. When the company appealed, the Bombay High Court directed it to deposit Rs 20 crore in cash, and Rs 80 crore through a bank guarantee. The Supreme Court in November 2012 refused to interfere with the order of the Bombay High Court. Guess that puts a significant dent in Bennett & Coleman’s profits.
  • There was another legal notice sent, this time within the journalistic community. Indian Express’ Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, and journalists Ritu Sarin, Pranab Dhal Samata and Ajmer Singh sent a legal notice to Manu Joseph, Editor – Open magazine, R Rajmohan, publisher, Open magazine, Open Media Network Pvt Ltd, Hamendra Singh, Hartosh Singh Bal and Vinod Mehta – former Editor of Outlook, threatening to sue them for a total of Rs 500 crore (Rs 100 crore each for IE, the Editor-in-Chief, and the four journalists.

Shekhar Gupta along with correspondents Ritu Sarin and Pranab Dhal Samanta on April 4, 2012, had reported on odd movements by two army units, which had supposedly spooked the government into thinking that a coup attempt was being made. Vinod Mehta gave an interview to Open, titled The Mother Of All Mistakes, which according to Shekhar Gupta’s lawyer contained “defamatory imputations”. Mehta had stated that Gupta was “misled” into writing the report. The bone of contention was that the interview cast aspersions on The Indian Express team. The legal notice asked for the interview to be removed from Open magazine’s web site, apologies to the three journalists be posted on the web site and in the magazine, and Rs 100 crore as damages be given to each of the journalists.

  • Following the violence in Assam, the mass exodus of people from the north-eastern states, and related Mumbai violence, the government attempted to control rumours which they claimed were adding fuel to the fire. What did they do? They blocked 16 Twitter accounts, including those of two journalists – columnist Kanchan Gupta and television journalist Shiv Aroor. There was no proof – till date – of what rumour mongering these two were indulging in. But it’s the government, it can do what it wants. While we aren’t sure whether blocking them helped control the rumour mongering, it did help the two journalists increase their Twitter followers.
  • How can NDTV be far away from the news? The network filed a lawsuit against The Nielsen Company for manipulating TV ratings and viewership data in favour of TV channels willing to pay bribes to its officials. NDTV – which is one of their clients – has claimed that it has repeatedly experienced revenue losses due to “rampant corruption” in television viewership data published by TAM. That too for eight years between 2004 to January 2012. They claim that they’ve received “several assurances from the company that it will stop publishing corrupt TAM data and fix the blatant corruption present in the data”. NDTV also said that it had presented several complaints like corrupt data and low sample size to Nielsen officials, along with evidence supporting the data corruption in January this year, after which senior officials of Nielsen and Kantar promised to look into the matter. No such thing happened, and NDTV sued Nielsen, Kantar and TAM in the United States under New York State laws. For more you can read the Newslaundry article

The Times of India and The Hindu hit the headlines this year by embarking on a TV ad war. The battle began with a TOI ad – ‘Wake up, Chennai’, which implied that The Hindu readers were falling asleep while reading the paper. The Hindu retaliated with an ad of their own that made TOI readers out to be ill-informed morons. This was the first time two publications were using advertising to fight out the media turf war with each other. Both the initial ads were very well made and generated a lot of articles and opinions on the subject. More ads followed, and the war continues.

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