Vivid: Takeover of TV channels: Not possible, Madam Chief Minister!

Annurag Batra of exchange4media talks about Mamata Banerjee’s decision to take over channels Tara Newz and Tara Muzik on "humanitarian grounds"

e4m by Annurag Batra
Published: May 29, 2013 7:35 PM  | 5 min read
Vivid: Takeover of TV channels: Not possible, Madam Chief Minister!

The West Bengal government has decided to “come to the rescue” of 168 journalists abruptly thrown out of employment after two TV channels closed down some months back.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently said she was moved by the “tearful announcement” of the closure of the channels on ‘Poila Boisakh’ (first day of the Bengali New Year) and decided to take over the channels on “humanitarian grounds”. She also announced an immediate ex-gratia payment Rs 16,000 per head for these hapless TV journalists who are now rejoicing.

The channels in question are Tara Newz and Tara Muzik, owned by the now-defunct Saradha Group whose top boss Sudipto Sen is behind bars on charges of cheating hundreds of thousands of small investors who had invested in his chit fund.

The founder of these two TV start-ups was the veteran journalist, Ratikanta Basu. He has hailed the decision as a “humanitarian act”. He recounted that it was difficult for him to run the show by disbursing about Rs 2 crore per month to the employees on its payrolls. He developed the viewership with loyal audiences in Bangladesh and overseas Indians residing in Europe and America.

Basu had sold off these two titles to the Saradha owner for an undisclosed amount. Basu bemoaned the fact that Sen took no interest in running the specialised agencies and did not even once set foot in their offices. Sen, in fact, managed the channels through his henchmen Kunal Ghosh and Indrajit Roy. But they were not professionally and competently managed. The viewer loyalty was their strength.

The staff had made tearful appeals to this segment for support to save their livelihood which was at stake. The appeal was broadcast live on April 15 which was supposed to be their last day at work.

The state government statement added that past liabilities would not be taken over. There was no mention of any similar takeover of the similarly affected media outfits which have since closed down: Saradha-owned English daily Bengal Post and Bengali daily Sakalbela. No such tears were shed for them nor any ad hoc help extended to them on “humanitarian grounds”.

While the state’s main opposition CPI (M) has slammed the move, saying it is a bid to get the employees to withdraw charges against the owner, the Congress party has claimed that the Chief Minister is doing it with the ulterior motive of publicity. But, Mamata Banerjee is apparently unfazed.

Political criticisms apart, the announcements of the takeover of the two TV channels by the West Bengal government were couched in legal jargon. It sought to justify the takeover in “public interest” in accordance with Article 31A (B) of the Constitution of India. The precedent cited was the takeover of the Great Eastern Hotel (Taking Over of Management) Act, 1975.

There are other precedents as well. In 1974, the then Siddhartha Shankar Ray-lead Congress government had taken over the Bengali daily newspaper Basumati. The Left Front had similarly supported another Bengali daily Satyayug which was struggling for survival.
The legalese mulled by the state government stated that a Bill would be moved before the legislature in conformity with the said provision of the Constitution and sent to the President for his assent which will enable the state to take over the managing committees of the channels. This, despite the fact that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended that the central and state governments should not enter the business of broadcasting.

Even the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s uplinking and downlinking guidelines mandate that a TV channel can only be operated by a company registered under the Companies Act. “We don’t know all the details of the West Bengal government’s proposal but under the current rules a licensee cannot be a government entity,” Uday K Varma, the I&B secretary, told the media in the wake of the state government’s proposal.

He added that broadcasting was on the union list and only the central government was authorized to make laws on the subject.

Public memory is proverbially short. But some do have good memories. I am provoked to hark back to the dark days of the Emergency years (1975-77). The sole TV channel of those times was Doordarshan. Many such members of the public are thus livid at the vivid memories evoked. Such outpouring of dictatorial state propaganda was done then.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” goes the adage. The state government’s logic is very simple to read. How many voters can read? How many can afford to buy newspapers? Not many. The TV broadcast has a wider footprint than the print media. The government and the ruling Trinamool Congress party has seen to it that the ubiquitous street corner clubs have been duly equipped with the idiot box. What an opportunity at the most opportune moment!

With the general public at all segments and at all levels seething with anger at the whimsical, incompetent and corrupt state administration, two tools in the shape of two visual media entities thrust into the lap of the cornered regime. Two ready mouthpieces. Two channels of propaganda. Oh! Too tempting to resist the consensual copulation. Oh! To be the “humanitarian” now that the Panchyat elections are round the corner, the administrative filibuster notwithstanding.

The recent High Court in Kolkata verdict has seen to that. The Election Commission could not be browbeaten into deferring the elections any further. A pair of handguns comes handy, dripping with crocodile tears.

The state government will not bear the liabilities amounting to over Rs 6 crore. The government will only be the opportunistic user of the assets. And thereafter dispose off. Use-n-throw!

That’s not possible, Madam Chief Minister.

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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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'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.

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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.

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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.

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NFDC plans to launch its OTT soon: Apurva Chandra

Chandra, the Secretary of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India, was speaking at the FICCI Frames 2023

By exchange4media Staff | May 3, 2023 4:18 PM   |   2 min read

Apurva Chandra
The National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) soon will be launching its Over The Top (OTT) platform to showcase films that don't get space in the market.
Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India while speaking at FICCI Frames said, "We also hope to come up with NFDC's own OTT as a platform to showcase those films that don't get space in the market so that young talent gets a chance to showcase its talent."
He added, "Through NFDC, we need to finance projects and give support to young filmmakers who don't have access to funds otherwise."
He also said shared that the government is working to soon bring an Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comic (AVGC) policy and create an AVGC Mission.
Addressing the 23rd edition of FICCI FRAMES, Chandra said, “Animation, visual effects and graphics are areas which have tremendous potential. With the establishment of the AVGC Task Force and the creation of a national policy for AVGC, India will be well on its way to becoming a global leader in the AVGC industry.”
Highlighting the untapped potential of the Indian Media and Entertainment industry, the Secretary pointed out, “There is still a world left to be captured by the Indian Media and Entertainment industry. The world is interested in Indian stories and Indian culture.”
He further assured the industry of support from the government: “The government would like to be facilitators and supporters of the media and entertainment industry so that it reaches the world stage. We would like to work with the industry to set up more and more institutes so that more manpower comes on board in the industry.”
Chandra added that the government is in the works to set up a National Centre for Excellence operational in Mumbai by next year.
Commenting on the Cinematograph Act, the Secretary said, “The Cabinet has recently approved the revamp of the Cinematograph Act so that strict actions can be taken against piracy. The act is likely to be introduced in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament. We hope to get it passed soon.”
“This (Cinematograph Act) will give direct powers to the government to take action against websites showing pirated films,” shared the secretary.

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