Because a business connection, it appears, can come in the way of comprehensive reporting.
However, if your choice of morning newspaper is Hindustan Times – you wouldn’t know that piece of detail. Space constraint, maybe? After all, how much can you possibly fit in two-column report (yes, that’s how much the paper deemed appropriate for what was the lead story on the city page for most other Delhi dailies, like The Times of India, The Hindu and The Indian Express).
The omission, however, does not seem all that innocuous, as some basic digging into the business interests of the two companies involved – Domino’s Pizza and Hindustan Times Limited – would suggest.
68 per cent of HT Media Limited, which publishes Hindustan Times, is owned by Hindustan Times Limited. The chairperson of the Hindustan Times Limited is Shobhna Bhartia, who is also editorial director of Hindustan Times and the two directors of the company are Priyavrat Bhartia and Shamit Bhartia. Incidentally, Shobhna is the wife of Shyam, and Priyavrat and Shamit are their sons.
Shyam and Priyavrat also happen to hold stakes in Jubilant FoodWorks Limited. Apart from that, Shyam and Priyavrat are directors in Jubiliant Enpro Services Private Limited (which is a promoter of Jubilant FoodWorks Limited). To cut a long story short, the Bhartiyas wield considerable influence over both Jubilant Foodworks Limited and Hindustan Times.
But then are we running amok with conspiracy theories here? Well, one would give Hindustan Times the benefit of doubt, had it not been a repeat offender. In February, the paper, in its print edition, failed to mention Jubilant Energy as one of the companies involved in a case of high-profile corporate espionage, where a former journalist was arrested for allegedly stealing documents from the Petroleum Ministry. Jubilant Energy, too, is part of the Hari and Shyam-owned Jubliant Bhartia Group.
Wait, before we jump the gun, is it some sort of an editorial policy to not name brands in news report? Again, doesn’t quite seem to be the case because, when reporting on the Uber rape story, the paper did not refer to Uber as a private taxi company or like wise. To be sure, in the recent Maggi controversy too, HT did not call Maggi noodles an instant-noodle company.
We sent an email questionnaire to Hindustan Times’ Editor-in-Chief Sanjoy Narayan, asking him the reason behind excluding the Domino’s brand name in the news report. Narayan has not responded to us as yet. The story will be updated if and when he chooses to respond.
Interestingly, The Times of India, too, refrained from using Domino’s name and referred to Domino’s as a “popular pizza outlet”. Which, one would think, is very surprising since the two have gone hard at each other in the recent past over circulation numbers. Sources in TOI, however, say it is much more complex than that: while it is alright to fight in public over readership figures, none of the two entities want to hurt each other’s business interests – and since both groups have business interests across sectors, it makes sense to not meddle in each other’s businesses. In fact, there also exists a no-poaching agreement between the two newspapers.
What, however, is indeed difficult to understand is, HT’s refusal to learn from its mistakes. The paper received much flak the last time it didn’t name a group company in a news report. It has chosen to do exactly the same again – and surely, we are not the only one to spot it.