Guest ColumnRetrofit: Believing in the relevance of news

Sandeep Bamzai takes a look at the most relevant news covered by Headlines Today in recent times to stress that if the bulwark of a news channel remains news, then this long and arduous road of perseverance will pay off. The process of distillation at Headlines Today has been slow and capital intensive, but one can safely say that it is bearing fruition finally.

e4m by Sandeep Bamzai
Published: Mar 3, 2010 7:11 AM  | 8 min read
Guest Column<br>Retrofit: Believing in the relevance of news

Just before the Big B - Budget - BJP's Sushma Swaraj launched a vitriolic offensive against the Treasury benches on the price spike. It was a well researched speech, well spoken and well intoned. She had the Government at sixes and sevens as she assailed their ineptitude on price management. During the course of her speech, she mentioned a Headlines Today investigation, which tracked the reasons behind the inordinately high sugar price rise. It was a blistering attack and while the Government, read Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, tried his best to save his skin, it was to no avail. Good old fashioned reportage had once again worked for Headlines Today, which seems to be on a red hot streak lately.

Good, solid, purposeful reporting seems to be paying in spades for the channel. The laggard has transformed itself from merely being a pretender to a claimant for the English news throne. Given that the sweepstakes in the news business are enormously high, that is a creditable achievement. The sugar investigation set me thinking. For in the immediate past, Headlines Today has been on a roll, its news gathering and investigative skills acting as a differentiator. Two investigations on pulses and sacks full of sugar rotting in government warehouses have raised Cain across the board. Angering hoi polloi, who in any case are bearing the brunt of Government callousness. I must add that the Dal scam was arguably first broken by Outlook, while the sugar sacks lying inert in Kandla and Haldia ports was an original.

For the last seven years, India is a net importer of dals and edible oil. If Pawar has his way, we will soon become net importers of sugar as well. The Headlines Today investigation detailed that:

DAL SCAM: Thousands of tonnes of pulses are rotting in the country’s ports and warehouses even as the markets ran short of supplies and consumers paid through their noses. Prices have trebled. The expose showed how approximately 40,000-60,000 tonnes of pulses were lying unused at the Kolkata port. The colossal waste was captured on camera by an undercover team.

SUGAR ROT: What started during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival last year, has culminated into the hoi polloi venting their collective spleen on Government callousness, as mismanagement seems to be the order of the day as far as sugar is concerned. As the prices moved into the stratosphere, it was discovered that nearly 11 lakh tonnes of the daily sweetener has been lying at Kandla port for six months. So, why is the sugar lying unused when it can easily be released in the open market to cool flaring prices? While HT's basic premise behind the sugar, in both processed and raw form, lying at Kandla without being released into the market is wrong, the bottomline is that consumers have paid almost the twice the amount over the last six months. Again HT's claim that the perpetrators of this great injustice on consumers – Renuka Sugar, Bajaj Hindustan Sugar, Emmsons, Rana Sugar and Olem International – was misinformed; the reality is that the entire exercise smacks of wilful neglect and deliberate and malafide intent on the part of a section of the Government.

HT linked the sugar rot to millers in Uttar Pradesh, but one needs to look at Pawar's role in this sorry tale, which means going beyond the apparent. A Central Customs and Excise notification dating back to 2002 was amended on July 31, 2009, which effectively prevented sugar importing UP mills from getting the commodity processed by anyone other than themselves. I hope the UP millers were not hand in glove with this section of the Government.

Bottomline, as ET explained, this proviso could have been reversed much earlier through a new notification. But it didn't. Around the same time as the Central notification was put out, Pawar started talking up prices by saying that there was a sugar shortfall. The sugar sacks lying at Kandla and JNPT could have easily been lifted and processed by mills in Maharashtra instead. However, it chose not to. After much heat and dust, the Cabinet Committee on Prices on January 13 decided to reverse this crucial notification. Between July 31 and January 13, profiteers, blackmarketeers and hoarders had a field day. But ET explains this better: "The changes make it difficult for the sugar importing mill/ factory/ refiner to allow or facilitate any agency other than itself, even a sugar mill next door in the same state, to process the imported sugar. They had to give to give a hidebound, document-backed commitment to the customs and excise authorities that they were importing raw sugar for processing at their own factories."

Apathy or what? Aiding them all along was Food Minister Sharad Pawar – first, by his alarmist statements, and then, by cutting duty on sugar to zero, allowing these companies to import sugar at rock-bottom prices. The sugar then was allowed to pile up at the ports. The white processed sugar was released in small quantities, allowing prices to remain high. UP Chief Minister Mayawati didn't help by not allowing imported raw sugar to enter the state, since cane was still standing in the Uttar Pradesh fields. Anyway, during the debate on price rise, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj trained her guns at Sharad Pawar. “Sugar import and export are decided by the Government. No one but Sharad Pawar knows best about it. He is the owner of the sugar industry, he is the Sugar King of India,” Sushma thundered in the House.

Two other terror related investigations this year also need to be pointed out:

HAFIZ SAEED TAPES: On tape, wanted and dreaded terror network leader Hafiz Saeed threatens India with jihad. Headlines Today accesses Saeed's speech at a ‘Kashmir solidarity’ rally in Lahore on February 5, where he is shown spewing venom against India. This wasn't a clandestine underground meet, but one on the city's Mall Road. It was held in broad daylight and attended by over 10,000 people, some of whom brandished automatic weapons. Saeed's sudden appearance came just days before talks between India and Pakistan resumed. In his speech, Saeed said that the jihadis were willing to go all out to liberate Kashmir. He drew parallels with the Soviet Union's defeat and US reverses in Afghanistan and told the gathering that India would meet the same fate in Kashmir.

The Government moved with alacrity, seeking the Jamaat-ud-Daawa chief's tapes just two days before foreign secretary-level talks were to begin with Pakistan. Subsequently, the tapes were discussed in the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan.

SHAHZAD AHMED PILOT BOMBER: Earlier this year, the biggest story broken yet by HT was the Shahzad Ahmad pilot bomber story, which detailed how the Indian Mujahideen was planning a 9/11-type attack. The Headlines Today story went like this: A 9/11-type terror attack using hijacked aeroplanes stares India in the face with an Indian Mujahideen terrorist having acquired pilot training and waiting to strike, according to intelligence agencies. Intelligence Bureau (IB) sources say Shahzad Ahmed alias Pappu, one of the key accused in the September 2008 Delhi blasts case, learnt to fly planes in Bangalore and could now be planning to execute an airborne terror strike.

"A dozen other trained Indian Mujahideen terrorists are also at large, and together with Shahzad, pose a big security threat. In his early twenties and hailing from Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh district, Shahzad gave Delhi Police the slip during the 2008 Batla House encounter in the city. He was the one who opened fire on slain Delhi Police officer Mohan Chand Sharma during the encounter. Shahzad underwent pilot training just before the Delhi blasts and has been absconding since the Batla House encounter. Headlines Today accessed Shahzad's Orkut and email accounts, which revealed his terror plot. Photos of Shahzad in the cockpit, displaying flying skills, sending radio signals or posing with other trainee pilots have alarmed the police.

"Close to a month later, UP Police lauded Headlines Today after the arrest of Shahzad Ahmed from Azamgarh. ADGP Brij Lal said the channel covered the story extensively, which helped them arrest Shahzad. UP police, in fact, described the sequence of events that led to this dreaded IM militant’s capture. He was alerted by his family after the story was telecast. Shahzad then contacted his source in Pakistan to help him across the border. Unfortunately for him, his phone was under surveillance. He was quickly traced and arrested from Azamgarh."

It only tells you that if the bulwark of a news channel remains news, then this long and arduous road of perseverance will pay off. Headlines Today was a punt that Aroon Purie took some years ago to build on the edifice of Aaj Tak. It was a punt which seemed to be meandering aimlessly, till it all came together when he bet on youth over experience. The process of distillation has been slow and capital intensive, but one can safely say that it is bearing fruition finally. Only because it believed in the relevance of news.

(Sandeep Bamzai is a well-known journalist, who started his career as a stringer with The Statesman in Kolkata in 1984. He has held senior editorial positions in some of the biggest media houses in three different cities - Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. In late 2008, he joined three old friends to launch a start-up – Sportzpower Network – which combines his two passions of business and sport. Familiar with all four media – print, television, Internet and radio, Bamzai is the author of three different books on cricket and Kashmir.

The views expressed here are of the writer’s and not those of the editors and publisher of

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube

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.

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube

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.

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube

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".

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube

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.

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube

'No medium is dead. There's opportunity for everyone'

A panel of the industry's sharpest minds convened to talk about the future of advertising at the recently held FICCI Frames 2023

By exchange4media Staff | May 5, 2023 1:40 PM   |   4 min read


An August panel at FICCI Frames 2023 deliberated on ‘What is the future of advertising?’ in a discussion featuring some of the prominent names from the Indian adland. Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas Group India; Saurabh Saksena, CEO, VMLY&R India; Gangs T Gangadhar, Co-Founder & Group, CEO, Quotient Ventures; Rohit Gopakumar, COO, Optimal Media Solutions (Times Group); Dheeraj Sinha, CEO, Leo Burnett, South Asia & Chairman BBH India; Abe Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network ( BIGFM). The session was moderated by Vinit Karnik, Business Head- Entertainment, Group M came together to discuss the relevancy of advertising in today’s digital era and in the future.

The talk kickstarted with a discussion of the changes that the industry saw in the last few years with the disruption of many mediums and marketing tactics along with user-generated content and influencer marketing being at its peak.

Barua of Havas said, “There are two ways to look at it. First, from our country and second, from what's happening outside India. From an Indian POV, there are dramatic changes that are happening. Cultural changes are happening in the form of mediums. Consumers are getting more powerful in terms of the entertainment or content they want to see, and norms have changed. The control is in the consumer’s hands today. Data and analytics have become very important.”

Karnik concluded Rana’s point by saying that the consumer has become the centre of all the mediums, consuming through multiple mediums like TV and digital and other traditional media. 

Saksena of VMLY&R said, “One thing that is constant is the need to be creative, platforms, mediums, and advertisers need to be creative, and this has stayed universal. Consumers have the power. Where we are today after Covid, I think Covid was the accelerator of trends - the adoption of OTT, e-commerce, etc. A lot has changed and remained constant and there is pressure on advertisers to value a consumer’s time.”

Speaking about how he sees the industry, Gangs said, “Well as long as there is a need to build brands, there will be a need for advertising. How will it look, will obviously change but the need is going to be there. Advertising should be interesting and inspiring. Earlier it used to be entertainment but it should be inspiring."

Gopakumar of Times Group spoke about print and its slow-paced growth saying, “If you see print in smaller towns is growing. Vernacular papers are coming out with their new editions. The opportunity is humongous. The audience is changing, earlier it was a need economy, and now it is a want economy. When I started it was a Rs 25,000 Crore advertising revenue. Today it is Rs 1000 crore. No medium has died. There is opportunity for everyone.”

When asked about what advice Leo Burnett gives to their clients, Sinha of Leo Burnett said, “I feel this is the best time to be in advertising and marketing. When I started, one could only play with words and images and now you can play with technology. And that’s what makes today’s world exciting. The value chain is now moving from just advertising to talking down to people and to actually solving human problems and business problems.”

The opportunity is to move up the value chain to solve problems. Because What’s lost is the entitlement that advertising had 20 years back which was playing a jingle and people watching it. Now people will choose to interact with content if it is interesting or not and, hence, the onus is on us to make the content more interesting and to solve for something that really matters in the people’s lives,” he added.

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube

National policy on AVGC is being finalised: Apurva Chandra

Speaking at the FICCI Frames 2023, the MIB Secretary also noted that the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has been undergoing a transformation

By exchange4media Staff | May 4, 2023 8:33 AM   |   4 min read

apurva chandra

Apurva Chandra, Secretary, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), on Wednesday, said that the government was in the process of finalising the national policy on the Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comic (AVGC) sector. 

Addressing the 23rd edition of FICCI FRAMES in Mumbai, Chandra said, “After the taskforce report was formulated, it was thrown open for the stakeholders’ feedback. We have received a number of comments which are getting incorporated. Now we are in the process of finalising the core for the national policy, which will go for inter-ministerial consultation and thereafter the final policy can be announced.”

Chandra disclosed that a consultation was held with the state governments on April 20th where almost 25 state governments were represented, and wherein a draft AVGC policy was put out for the state governments in public domain. He further added that in the conclave the state governments were told what was expected of them, and their queries were addressed. 

“Now I am sure that the industry will also take it forward, while we have put it out to the state governments to frame their own policy,” the Secretary added. He also mentioned that some of the state governments like Karnataka, Telangana, and Maharashtra were ahead, as they were already doing something in terms of the AVGC policy, and it is for the others to take it ahead.

Chandra, who has also chaired the AVGC task force, said, “AVGC sector requires a cross-section of work from various ministries and various state governments, and they all have to come together, especially to meet the challenges of education and skilling.” 

With regard to skilling and education, Chandra asserted that it is the core of making skilled manpower available. “We are in touch with the education department of the government of India, as well as NCERT and all the other stakeholders such as All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to incorporate Animation courses and Visual effect courses into school curriculums, starting from 6th grade onwards, and in the Computer Science and activities curriculum, as well as skilling later on and standardisation of the courses at Graduate level, postgraduate level and subsequently,” he added.

Chandra also touched upon the matter of having a National Centre of Excellence, which has been talked about for a long time and said that a centre might be operational in Mumbai by next year. “The National Centre of Excellence has been on the drawing board for almost 7-8 years now, but we hope now that this is the final year. There again we want to involve the private sector, and we are partnering with CII and FICCI so that it remains a private sector entity and not a government entity. So that it gives more flexibility in terms of operations, in terms of hiring of faculty and manpower, and designing the courses.” 

He further shared that the government also wants to create regional centres so that more people can be trained to meet the needs of the industry. The Secretary added that the government is in the works to set up a National Centre for Excellence operational in Mumbai by next year.

The AVGC sector in India is rapidly growing and has the potential to make India a global content leader. However, the country’s share of the AVGC global revenue today is less than 1%. With the announcement of the AVGC task force by the government, the industry has hopes that the number will improve in the coming years.

In a fireside chat with Praveen Someshwar, Co-Chair & FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee & MD & CEO, HT Media, the secy also that Prasar Bharati - the public broadcaster is undergoing a transformation, adding that over the past few years not a lot of new content has been created on Prasar Bharati.

He said, "Within this month many new serials are going to come on Prasar Bharati. It's undergoing a transformation. Infact, new films have started coming back on Prasar Bharati which were not there earlier. Regional films will also start and fresh content is also being created."
He also invited stakeholders to participate in the process of transforming Prasar Bharati. While in fact at the event, Prasar Bharati CEO Gaurav Dwivedi, said in four months time different content will be airing on Doordarshan.

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube

Equal representation of women behind the camera is important: Guneet Monga

In a discussion with P&G's Kainaz Gazder at #WeSeeEqual Summit, the Oscar-winning producer shared some facts about female representation in Indian media and advertising

By exchange4media Staff | May 3, 2023 5:05 PM   |   2 min read

guneet monga

There is a need to push more women behind commercials as directors, India’s First Oscar Winning Producer Guneet Monga said on Wednesday, noting that not even 5 per cent of directors in India are women.  

In a discussion with Kainaz Gazder, Senior VP, P&G Asia Middle East Africa, on the topic “Seeing is Believing: Power of Advertising and Media” at P&G’s #WeSeeEqual Summit, Monga stressed the need for women representation in media and advertising.

“I love storytelling and love the impact it can make. Equal representation of women behind the camera is important."

“Pushing more women behind the commercials is much needed. Our statistics are quite low, unfortunately. Less than 5 per cent of women are behind the cameras as directors. That just needs to change and as a producer myself, at Sikhya Entertainment, most of our stories are either led by women or are about women. It is very important to see how women are represented. It is a large part of our conversation,” she said.

During the discussion, Kainaz Gazder, Senior VP, of P&G Asia Middle East Africa, spoke about the role P&G plays in breaking gender stereotypes.

“We are P&G look at our responsibility of leveraging the voice of our brands towards equality and inclusion very seriously. We look at it like a three-fold approach. One, we make sure we have a diverse and accurate representation as we do our communication. Two, we want to leverage our voice to be a force for good. Third, we want equal representation of women behind the camera,” she said.

She said that in 2019, only 16 per cent of P&G’s production was driven by female directors and now it has grown to 35 per cent.

“We are aiming to get that to 50 per cent goal with a comprehensive set of actions to develop a pipeline of female talent in advertising media and content,” Gazder said.

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube