Guest Article: Murdoch contrite. Will this end tabloid terrorism?

Faced by questioning by the British Parliament, media mogul all Rupert Murdoch could do was claim ignorance of the NOTW phone hacking and say “People I trusted let me down and betrayed the company”. But Cyril Pereira, Co-Chairman, Asian Publishing Convention, finds this incredulous...

e4m by Cyril Pereira
Published: Jul 28, 2011 8:52 AM  | 8 min read
Guest Article: Murdoch contrite. Will this end tabloid terrorism?

What started as a damage-limitation fire-fight for Rupert on his News of the World (NOTW) tabloid, has in two short weeks turned British politicians into a frenzied attack pack, shot the two top policemen at Scotland Yard, scythed his closest lieutenants, split his family and tarnished his legacy.

It all crumbled suddenly. Rupert looked worn, out-of-touch and isolated – to await the modern equivalent of a very British beheading. The last British monarch tried and axed by Parliament was Charles I in 1649 – accused of treason for warring Parliament to pursue personal interest above the good of England. There is déjà vu in the current drama for uncrowned King Rupert. His tabloids goosed British Royalty too.

The charge against Charles I read in part the “wicked designs and evil practices of him, the said Charles Stuart, have been, and are carried on for the advancement and upholding of a personal interest of will, power, and pretended prerogative to himself and his family, against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation”.

In his imperious initial response, Rupert told Parliament he was too busy to attend their hearing till August! But the previously cowed politicians having lost their terror of Murdoch, dispatched the Serjeant-at-Arms to deliver the summons at his Wapping HQ. His diary found space for Parliament.

Up till the 7th of July, Rupert Murdoch was the man believed to have the power to make and unmake governments in the UK and Australia. He could call on and trade favours with prime ministers, presidents and politicians across the globe. He was never shy to leverage undue influence. He answered to no one. He was above and beyond politicians and parliaments.

In America, his Fox News network polarised politics, championed the Iraq war and amplified extreme right wing agendas. It played fast and loose with the lie that Barack Obama was a Muslim and born outside the United States – the latter, if true, could disqualify him from the presidency.

Stonewalling throughout, but contrite
The televised British Parliamentary hearing of three hours yielded no admission of prior knowledge, approval or complicity in phone-hacking and payments to the police. A grim faced Rupert declared it as the “humblest day of my life”. He was not responsible for what happened at the NOTW. He was betrayed by people he trusted.

James rested the company’s passivity on the closed police inquiry of assistant commissioner John Yates (resigned this week), clearance from the toothless Press Complaints Commission (declared by the PM to be soon replaced) and News Corp’s own internal inquiry of 2007 led by Les Hinton and Rebekah Wade (both resigned this week), which concluded that a rogue reporter was at fault.

Geoffrey Robertson QC, who in 2009 called for editors to quit the PCC said, “The PCC is a confidence trick that has ceased to inspire confidence – other countries which respect free speech have statutory ‘press ombudspersons’ who adjudicate public complaints, direct retractions and compensation, enforce rights of reply and monitor ethical standards.”

Asleep at the wheel?

When the captain of the ship, first and second officers, all declare they were unaware of phone-hacking and payments to the police, one wonders who then was on the bridge? Who made the rules, who defined the parameters, who called the shots? All three pleaded ignorance and absolved themselves of responsibility.

News Corporation is a tight ship. It monitors revenues, profits and losses across all business units, on a weekly basis like clockwork. Rupert speaks to his principal CEOs at least once a week. Any threat to the organisation would have been flagged up immediately for guidance from The Boss.

The plea of ignorance just does not wash. Rupert is the last man on whom the label ‘lax’ can be pinned. At the hearing he even sought to pose as an ethical and upright media leader, who believed phone-hacking and payments to police to be “wrong”, thumping the table repeatedly for emphasis.

Suddenly, Rupert flags the Singapore model
Out of the blue and out of context, he commented on the salaries paid to ministers in the Singapore government as the reason it remains the most corruption-free State globally. It was not clear whether he was implying that salaries of British MPs or Metropolitan police (or both) should be reviewed to prevent them falling prey to expenses fiddling and tabloid back-handers.

The salaries, bonuses and pay-revisions PAP ministers accorded themselves was a moot point in the recent elections which left significant sections of its society unimpressed and displeased. Some wondered if the once noble aspiration to serve society has been debased by crass commercial rewards. Many asked why ministerial failures did not result in dismissal as they would in business.

By any measure of leadership accountability, Rupert and James should be up for summary dismissal by News Corporation for gross negligence and dereliction of duty if nothing else.

News Corporation, even with the ‘Murdoch Discount’, is valued at US$41billion. A corporation so large, in the business of news and spanning the globe, cannot be left in the clutch of such ineptitude at the very top. The News Corporation board itself seems to be a creature of Rupert, unable and unwilling so far to act decisively. Nell Minnow, of Governance-Metrics International describes it as the “ultimate crony board”.

Too high up, too many people, don’t know how it happened
One is reminded of the pathetic performance of BP CEO Tony Hayward at the US Senate hearings on the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster. BP employed 90,000 staff globally. Tony Hayward denied awareness of the cost-cutting obsessions which compromised safety standards across the company. He did not know who approved such dangerous compromises and how such risky operations at sea were supervised. Perhaps he too was betrayed by the people he trusted?

Two high profile CEOs of high profile global corporations, both clueless when internal malpractice explodes into world news? Such lame excuses are unacceptable from corporate chiefs and political leaders. They are given too much power over people, resources and policy to be allowed to slither away.

How did daily news conferences at NOTW consider which stories to pursue and which to make the front page? Did the private detectives employed report to the editor? If such authority was delegated, who then authorised the phone-hacking? Who passed payments to police contacts? Who signed off?

The hearing was no wiser after three hours of the Murdochs.

Champion of free press without principles
While he held forth at public forums about “independence of the press”, Murdoch dictated editorial policy when it mattered to servant-editors at all his newspaper and broadcast properties. He paid well for unquestioning loyalty and got it. The Wall Street Journal this week dashed out an unseemly editorial accusing ‘commercial interests’ of rival media in the UK and the US for lambasting News Corporation. He is dumbing down the WSJ like he dumbed down The Times.

Murdoch espoused no particular political ideology. Some might call it a lack of principles. If anything was consistent in his media philosophy, it was profitable opportunism. If that meant pandering to the public appetite for ritual sacrifice of the rich and famous, so be it. If that meant offering a megaphone to Christian fanatics of America’s Bible belt and the kooky Tea Party wing of the Republicans, he would oblige. If bare breasts and titillation will outsell rival tabloids, fine.

Murdoch stakes out and dominates spaces squeamish publishers avoid. Did he have anything in common with the politics and politicians his media championed? Or empathy for the lives and reputations of individuals and families his tabloid press destroyed? No. It’s just business. Nothing personal.

It was all about astute market positioning with Fox News in America and unbridled tabloid terrorism in the UK. Other publishers just did not have the stomach for this level of sustained crudity.

The pressure to meet a daily strike rate on scandals and denouements made his UK tabloid editors slide beyond legality into allegedly criminal practices now being more thoroughly investigated by the Met and Parliament. NOTW or The Sun were not alone in this. Phone-hacking and payoffs to police are alleged to be widely practiced by all the tabloids.

Saving society from rogue media
All of this raises existential questions about the un-wisdom of allowing such media ownership concentration and the urgent need to: quarantine media from politicians, government and Big Business; protect citizens from intrusive paparazzi and privacy invasion; establish a press ombudsman with real statutory powers, and hold editors accountable for sins of commission and omission.

(Cyril Pereira is Co-Chairman, Asian Publishing Convention.)

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Tribes group acquires V-Square Media to create media entity - praNetR Tribes

V Square Media is a Bengaluru-based branding, media and marketing agency

By exchange4media Staff | May 29, 2023 2:59 PM   |   2 min read

praNetR Tribes

Tribes Group, an independent full-service media and advertising group, has acquired Bengaluru-based V Square Media, a branding, media, and marketing agency, and created a new entity - praNetR Tribes.

This acquisition brings together the complementary strengths and expertise of both companies, paving the way for a new era of innovation and growth. By harnessing their collective strengths, praNetr Tribes aims to deliver unparalleled content, services, and experiences to audiences worldwide.

This strategic acquisition will fuel the development of groundbreaking initiatives, leveraging cutting-edge technology and creative storytelling to engage audiences across multiple platforms. With an unwavering commitment to quality content, insightful narratives, and captivating entertainment, the new entity will redefine the media landscape. The acquisition is expected to unlock synergies, drive operational efficiencies, and create a solid foundation for sustained success. By integrating talent, resources, and distribution networks, the combined entity will be better positioned to meet the evolving needs and preferences of audiences, advertisers, and partners.

Recognising the fragmented nature of the ad production industry, praNetR Tribes presents an integrated platform for specialists and technicians to collaborate and work efficiently on projects in conjunction with brands and talent. The leadership teams of both organizations will work collaboratively to ensure a seamless integration and maximize the potential of the acquisition.

On the launch of praNetR Tribes, Gour Gupta, Chairman of Tribes Communication, shares his thoughts, saying, "Together, we will leverage our collective strengths to deliver innovative and compelling content that resonates with audiences globally. This acquisition is a testament to our shared commitment to excellence and our vision for the future of media.”

Lokesh Kumar, CEO of praNetR, comments on the new venture, “This acquisition is a transformative step that will elevate our collective impact on the media industry. By combining forces, we will unlock new opportunities, accelerate growth, and provide our audiences with unparalleled content experiences. We look forward to the exciting possibilities that lie ahead."

Headquartered in Bengaluru, praNetR Tribes operates across markets in India and abroad through the extensive Tribes Communications network.

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HT Media consolidated revenue up 8.3% at Rs 494 cr in Q4 aided by growth in print & radio

Ad revenue from the company’s print business grew 8% at Rs 269 cr

By exchange4media Staff | May 19, 2023 8:06 AM   |   2 min read

HT Media

HT Media Group reported a 8.3% rise in the fourth quarter with the consolidated total revenue at Rs 494 crore as compared to Rs 456 crore in the same quarter last year. The company reported a loss before tax of Rs 34 crore for the quarter ended March 31, 2023, versus a profit before tax of Rs 10 crore in the year-ago period.

The rise in revenue was supported by continued growth in print and radio segments, while the margin was impacted due to higher newsprint prices and investment in new business in the digital segment.

Commenting on the full-year results, Shobhana Bhartia Chairperson and Editorial Director of HT Media Ltd. & Hindustan Media Ventures Ltd said, “Geopolitical strife hampered supply lines across businesses and impacted raw material costs, especially in the first half of the year. The second half of the year witnessed a relatively subdued festive season on account of sluggish retail spending but the year ended with an uptick in business sentiment in our key segments and a slight softening in raw material prices.”

Ad revenue from the company’s print business grew 8% at Rs 269 crore for the quarter while on a full-year basis, it grew 12% from a year ago. Improvement in ad revenue on a full-year basis primarily led by ad volume and growth in both English and Hindi businesses.

The radio segment also saw an 18% rise in operating revenue in the quarter to Rs 36 crore.

Bhartia said, “Indian OTT space is one of the fastest growing pillars of the Media & Entertainment industry. Hindustan Media Ventures Ltd. looks to tap this potential with the launch of, a platform that aggregates OTT content, with a focus on abundance, convenience, personalisation, and affordability.”

“In the current fiscal, we are focused on building on our growth momentum from last year as we navigate the larger macro environment as well as the evolving media ecosystem. As always, our endeavor is to be a source of credible news and engaging content for our audiences,” she added.

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Bankruptcy court dismisses insolvency plea against Dish TV promoter: Report

The plea was filed by IDBI Trusteeship Services on behalf of Franklin Templeton Asset Management (India) Pvt Ltd

By exchange4media Staff | May 18, 2023 2:06 PM   |   1 min read

dish tv

A bankruptcy court has dismissed a plea by IDBI Trusteeship Services Ltd to initiate a corporate insolvency resolution process against Dish TV promoter Direct Media Distribution Ventures Pvt Ltd., according to a media report.

The plea was filed by the debenture trustee on behalf of Franklin Templeton Asset Management (India) Pvt Ltd, which had acquired non-convertible debentures worth ₹425 crore issued by Essel Infraprojects Ltd in 2015.

Direct Media had assured corporate guarantee on behalf of Essel, on the basis of which the trustee approached the Mumbai bench of the NCLT to admit the promoter after it failed to furnish dues of over Rs 599 crore, inclusive of interests, say media reports.

In a rebuttal to the petition, the promoter's counsel Nausher Kohli said that the debentures matured on May 22, 2020. Direct Media's guarantee was invoked on June 12, 2020, and the default date occurred during the suspension period, barring the admission of an insolvency petition.

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Cable operators write to TRAI to push for OTT regulation: Report

TRAI is currently conduction a study on licensing OTT content and will be releasing consultation papers for the same

By exchange4media Staff | May 18, 2023 11:26 AM   |   1 min read


In a push to create a level-playing field for TV and streaming content, multiple cable operators have reportedly approached the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to regulate OTT platforms.

A news report said that cable operators approached the regulatory authority as they felt threatened by the unbridled rise of OTT players. TRAI, on its part, has yet to come to a decision and is currently conducting a study on licensing OTT content; consultation papers for the same will be released in due time.

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Shemaroo Entertainment’s revenue from operations up 46% YoY

The company has reported 94% YoY rise in EBITDA

By exchange4media Staff | May 16, 2023 12:49 PM   |   2 min read


Shemaroo Entertainment’s revenue from operations for the fiscal ended 31st March 2023 has increased by 45.9 % to Rs 556.6 crore as compared to Rs 381.4 crore in the previous fiscal ended 31st March 2022.

For the fourth quarter ended 31st March 2023, the company’s revenue surged 75.8 % to Rs 164.5 crore compared to Rs 93.6 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal.

Announcing Shemaroo Entertainment’s financial results for the fourth quarter and financial year ending 31st March 2023, the company CEO Hiren Gada said, “Considering the external economic scenario, I am very pleased with our overall performance in this financial year.”

The company’s Profit After Tax (PAT) was up by 136.5 % to Rs 4.8 crores compared to Rs 2.1 crores in the fourth quarter ended 31st March 2022.

Commenting on the results, Gada said, “We started on this journey of changing our business strategy in 2019 and against all odds and headwinds that we have faced over the last few years, we have overcome all these challenges and have been successful in meeting our strategic goals.

“We are extremely confident that the agility, strength and innovative business model, along with a professionally run organization with freshly inducted talent from the media industry, will see our company delivering strong financial performance in the coming years.”

The company also saw an annual growth of 23.3 % in digital media and 66.5 % in traditional media in the financial year ended 31st March 2023 compared to the previous fiscal.

ShemarooMe, the OTT Platform released 14 new titles during the fourth quarter ended 31st March 2023 and the general entertainment channels (GECs) recorded a viewership share of 9 % in over all Hindi GEC genre.

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Amazon lays off at least 500 in India

The departments that saw pink slips were Amazon Web Services, HR and support functions

By exchange4media Staff | May 16, 2023 11:00 AM   |   1 min read


Amazon has handed out pink slips to at least 500 employees in India, media networks have reported.

The people who have been let go were with Amazon Web Services, HR and support functions.

CEO Andy Jassy had said in April that Amazon has begun laying off employees in its advertising unit.

As per the company, it was "prioritizing resources with an eye towards maximizing benefits to customers and the long-term health of our business".

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Media houses must comply with rules with regards to organised conclaves/summits: MIB

The MIB said it has come across as a violation at a recent media event   

By exchange4media Staff | May 10, 2023 1:47 PM   |   1 min read


Noting that e-cigarettes were promoted at a business summit of a prominent media house in New Delhi, the I&B ministry said in an advisory to media houses and satellite TV channels.

The ministry has directed newspapers, private satellite TV channels, publishers of news and current affairs content on digital media and publishers of online curated content (OTT platforms) to comply with existing legal provisions while organising conclaves or summits.

“It has been brought to the notice by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that in a recently organized Business Summit in New Delhi by a prominent media house, the forum was apparently used to promote electronic cigarettes.

“Such an action was in violation of Section 4 of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Act, 2019 which prohibits advertisements that directly or indirectly promote the use of electronic cigarettes.

“The Print, Electronic and Digital Media entities are accordingly advised to ensure that the aforementioned statute is not contravened either by way of advertisement or any promotion or other campaigns etc,” the MIB said in its advisory.

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