Anjana lauded for bulldozer reportage, Sudhir ‘maverick’: All about ENBA Awards

A key sponsor of the awards Adfactors PR manages public relations for ABP News, which won 63 awards.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
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It was another pinnacle of on-ground reporting. Aaj Tak’s Anjana Om Kashyap atop a bulldozer eulogised the “crackdown on illegal construction”, mostly belonging to Muslims, in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri in April last year. Days before her “historic reportage” on the then BJP-led Delhi municipal body’s “bulldozer action”, the area had witnessed communal flare-ups. 

But Kashyap didn’t quite make the connection between the violence and the bulldozer. Instead, she posed difficult questions to the heavy machine operator — why had he razed “only the roof” of a juice shop in the locality, “why not the whole shop?” 

It is for this exceptional piece of reportage that Kashyap won silver for ‘Best Spot News Reporting (Hindi)’ at the 15th ENBA Awards held in Noida on August 27. The anchor won a total of six awards at the ceremony, including ‘Best Anchor’ and ‘Best Coverage of Entertainment’ for the important debates like on Kashmir Files. 

More than half of the total 299 awards handed out at the ceremony were given to two media groups. The India Today Group took home a grand total of 111 awards, and ABP 63, Times Group received 32 awards, NDTV 12, and Barkha Dutt’s Mojo Story six. Newslaundry learnt that a total of 14 news organisations participated in the awards this year.

The noteworthy awards included NDTV editorial director Sonia Singh’s lifetime achievement award, Aaj Tak’s Sudhir Chaudhary’s ‘Maverick of The Year’ title, and the ‘Best Anchor’ awards conferred on Aaj Tak’s Gaurav Sawant, India Today’s Rahul Kanwal and Times Now’s Navika Kumar. The peculiar bestowal of awards didn’t stop there. The twin tower demolition in Noida made an epochal TV news moment, with at least four awards handed out for its coverage. 

Notably, Adfactors PR, the title sponsor of the awards, also happens to handle the public relations of ABP News. It was associated with India Today as well until a few years ago. The PR company’s co-founder and managing director Madan Bahal was also one of the jury members of the ENBA awards this year.

However, a senior executive at Adfactors told Newslaundry that the PR company manages ABP’s public relations but had “no role” in their submissions for the awards, or the awards’ nomination and selection process. 

It can be said that awards for journalists in India are a dime a dozen. With few exceptions, such as the Ramnath Goenka, Laadli, and Red Ink awards, which have lasting credibility and go through a strict selection process, awards such as the ENBA are notorious for being conferred on almost every participating channel. Over the past five years, the India Today Group has won a total of 317 awards at ENBA, while ABP has won 157 and Times Group 80.   

This year, the ENBA Awards by Exchange4media was sponsored by Adfactors PR, Bluestars ACs, and the Chhattisgarh state government. The award’s registration fees for the national news channels varied from Rs 23,500 to Rs 29,500, excluding taxes, while rebated bulk deals for the registration were common.  

Application process with ‘special discounts’ 

The ENBA award’s regular entry fees for TV news channels this year was Rs 26,500. If the entry forms were submitted a month earlier, a special “early bird discount” could be availed, bringing the fees down to Rs 23,500. The late fees charge, which was applicable for the application submitted a month after the regular deadline, took the amount to Rs 29,500. Taxes are applicable to all of the above. 

In a show of generosity, the ENBA had pruned the entry fees for regional channels to Rs 12,000, excluding the GST.  

Meanwhile, it did not only encourage applicants to apply in bulk but also offered incentives to this effect. Newslaundry looked at the ENBA’s entry form from two years ago, which offered a five percent discount for 5-10 entries, 10 percent discount for 11-15 entries, 15 percent discount for 16-20 entries, 20 percent discount for 21-50 entries, and a 25 percent discount for over 50 entries.  

Entries above 50 were given more discounts. The more the number of registrations by a channel, the higher the discount. While the discounted prices for this year and last year’s bulk registrations are no longer visible on the ENBA website, journalists from prominent news organisations confirmed to Newslaundry that lucrative deals for bulk applications were offered this year as well.  

India Today Group is yet to respond to our query on the bulk registration amount they paid. But one can only assume that the media outlet at least got a 25 percent discount for sending in more than 111 applications. Under the regular deadline, if an organisation applied for even 130 awards — and that’s a conservative figure — they would shell out at least Rs 25,83,750.

Priyanka Bhadouria, associate director at Exchange4media, told Newslaundry that a total of 14 news organisations had participated in the awards this year. “The awards are a jury driven process. The jury itself consists of leaders from different domains and political parties.”

She said that the registration amounts are discounted based on negotiations done with the news organisations on a one-on-one basis, depending on the number of entries. 

Notably, the ENBA awardees do not receive any monetary prize, but are only given a trophy.  

15 BJP members in jury 

This year, the 75-member ENBA Awards’ jury consisted of at least 15 individuals affiliated with the BJP, five times more than the number of members from the Congress, which was three. The BJP members in the jury included Sambit Patra, Amit Malviya, Gaurav Bhatia and Varun Gandhi. While among others, Rahul Shewale of Shiv Sena’s Shinde faction, Priyanka Chaturvedi of Uddhav Thackrey’s Shiv Sena, two members of the Samajwadi Party, and two members of the BJD were also a part of the jury. 

Chaired by former chief election commissioner Sunil Arora, who was earlier accused of being partisan towards Modi, the jury also included two godmen, and right-wing 'intellectual' and TV talking head Abhijit Iyer Mitra. 

A senior executive from a non-participating network told Newslaundry that the awards had become a “business” and a “revenue model” for organisers. 

A top executive with another network that did not participate at the ENBA Awards this year, said that there was “always a revenue angle”. “When a media outfit does an event, it is either to become salient or an established brand. However, there will always be a revenue angle. This could be in the form of sponsors, registration, or something else. If the sponsors are the winners of these awards, that’s when there’s a conflict of interest.” 

‘Noteworthy’ winners 

As many as four silver awards were heaped on Times Now’s Navika Kumar for her work between November 2021 and October 2022 — in the midst of which multiple FIRs were registered against Kumar across states for “outraging” religious feelings. It was on her primetime debate in May last year that the then BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma had passed controversial remarks against Prophet Muhammad, which sparked violence in several parts of the country and even led to a diplomatic row.   

Despite this, Navika’s shows won ‘Special Jury Mention’, ‘Best Prime Time Show’, ‘Best Talk Show’ and ‘Best Anchor’ awards.  

Amusingly, media maverick Sudhir Chaudhary said at the event that “an ecosystem” wanted the “Indian audience to lose trust and credibility” in mainstream media. In an interaction with Annurag Batra, chief of Exchange4media and BW Businessworld, Chaudhary said, there is a “cohort of social media that is trying to infect people’s minds by feeding them utter lies about mainstream media.” 

Mojo Story received the most awards for digital media — for ‘Best Digital Media News Channel’, gold and bronze awards for ‘Best Current Affairs Programmes’, ‘Best Talk Show’, ‘Best News Coverage’ for their reportage on Kashmir’s Covid-19 frontline warriors, and ‘Best Anchor’ award.  Brut India, ABP’s Uncut, Filmy NewsJ, NewsNasha, Revsportz were also recognised. Meanwhile, BBC won awards for BBC News Tamil and BBC News Hindi.

Aaj Tak’s Ashraf Wani was conferred the silver award for ‘Best Coverage in Travel Sector (Hindi)’ for his reports on Afghanistan, many of which were interviews with Taliban representatives. The channel’s Shweta Singh won an award for her show on 75 years of independence that unsurprisingly harped on an anti-Pakistan rhetoric.  

Of the four awards conferred for the coverage of the Noida Twin Tower explosion, three were given to India Today Group and one to ABP. Compelling one’s imagination to run amok, one of the awards conferred on Aaj Tak for the Twin Tower demolition coverage was under the category ‘Best Coverage of Technology’. 

Business Today Television also received silver for ‘Best Digital Media News Channel’, even though it was launched only on October 23 last year, and the awards were being bestowed to recognise the work between November 1, 2021, and October 31, 2022. So the channel effectively won the award for eight days of its existence.

Another notable winner on the list was sports journalist Boria Majumdar, who had found himself in the middle of a controversy last year after he sent intimidating messages to a cricketer, coercing him to do an interview. This had led to an enquiry by the BCCI, which called him out for being “unprofessional” and banned him for two years.

Majumdar won not just one but five awards, including ‘Best Anchor (English)’.

Newslaundry also reached out to ENBA Awards sponsor Chhattisgarh state government for comments. We have sent them queries related to the awards. This report will be updated on receiving their response.

Research assistance by Sukrit Kumar.

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