Monday, March 26, 2012

Saving Shekar's Indian Express

The post ‘India’s Worst Journalists of August 2010 still remains a popular one on this site. That says a lot of what people generally think of our media celebs.Here’s what I wrote then about Shekhar Gupta, the Editor of Indian Express:"He is the chief of a fast-sinking newspaper and bides his free time (of which he has a lot) in a mundane program called "Walk the talk" on NDTV. Voters found a lot of similarities to BBC's 'Simpson's World' but lacking in any substance. Much of the interviews or discussions on this program is a platform to scratch the back of the interviewee. If you are looking for any serious questions or answers this is certainly not a program for you. In fact, some voters have very strongly suggested that the title of the program should  be called  'Time Pass”.

Ramnath Goenka must surely be having sleepless eternity where ever he is with the current state of affairs at the IE. A newspaper that was strongly anti-establishment, stood for courage in reporting and exposed many a misdeed has now been reduced to a doormat and mouthpiece for the Congress. One should read the series ‘Indira as Commerce’ by Arun Shourie which unseated A.R. Antulay as CM of Maharashtra or the IE stories of the Bhagalpur blindings which still stand as India’s best investigative reporting. All that is past. Today there are two IEs. One is Indian Express and the other is the New Indian Express. NIE has a decent circulation of around 2 million, mostly in the South while IE is negligibly sold mostly in the North and West with negligible circulation.

Kingfisher Airlines has been in the news for quite some time now with its financial mess. There was news about SBI willing to bail out Kingfisher but it backed off owing to protests by its own unions. So KFA is currently stranded with its wings clipped. If the Govt. were to step in and bail out KFA, that too is sure to generate a lot of heat and protests. I don’t have financial information about Shekhar Gupta’s IE but I have little doubt that it is being regularly bailed out and on oxygen supplied by the Govt. Of India (GOI). And since such generous doles to a newspaper are not clearly visible to the public, both the GOI and IE can get away with it. And the bank that bails out ‘friendly’ newspapers? Yes, it’s the Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity (DAVP). It falls under the I&B ministry, currently headed by Ms.Ambika Soni.

FullPage Min of Agri Ad
I get at least 3 newspapers of which IE happens to be one. I usually only browse through them as most of the articles and news reports are already on the net before the paper hits you. Let’s take the main paper of IE for Sunday, March 25. What caught my attention was a piece titled “Reinventing Rahul” by Lord Hairstyle Icon. In a cursory glance I found mention of Bollywood and Joy Mukherjee here and there and quit reading further. One of my wiser choices. But what was difficult to escape noticing were three whopping colour ads. Heavy, expensive ads going by the sizes. Not sure, but I am quite certain that this in all-edition ad for the IE.

The IE edition of March 25 has a quarter page of matrimonials, five tender notices from various govt. bodies filling up another quarter page. That’s it! No other real ads of any substance. Let’s get to the colour part of the ads. There are three in-house ‘filler’ ads of IE itself . After that, all that IE had were three whopping colour ads by none other than the GOI

HalfPage Customs Ad
So what’s wrong with that? Well, none of the GOI ads aren’t about anything specific but a general awareness drive for ESIC, Ministry of Agriculture and Customs & Excise. Take a lot at the pics. If you were a commercial organisation valuing the money you spend on ads, would you really be advertising in the IE? With half-page and full-page ads? I seriously doubt that. But that’s not a problem for the GOI as it spends our money as doles for the friendliest of newspapers. I didn’t find the same ads in the TOI, which has a much larger circulation. So naturally, I wonder why this special love and affection by the GOI for Indian Express. Many in the business, even Aditya Sinha of DNA, will tell you how the DAVP works as a ‘Carrot and Stick’ organisation.

HalfPage ESIC Ad
It is for good reason that most media organisations have a special cell or people dedicated to managing and massaging the DAVP and State Information Departments. I have every reason to believe that in the competitive world of newspapers and TV it is hard to survive without GOI doles and bail-outs. This won’t be visible to the public eye therefore not as much outrage as a Kingfisher bail out. It is our hard earned money being spent mindlessly. All that a media outlet has to do is to surrender their soul to the Congress and their credibility to the devil. Staying alive is important. The GOI may be saving many other friendly newspapers and TV channels with our money. Saving Indian Express is one thing! Why should it be with wanton use of our money? The best part? One doesn't have to return these bail-outs, not even interest payments. It's free!


  1. Shekhar Gupta like other servile Nehruvian media goons of CNN IBN,NDTV ,TOI etc survives only due to psychophancy of Nehru dynasty

  2. It is an open secret. DAVP ads are a good part of the baseline revenue of many newspapers. The amount of money government departments spend on printing tender notices and full page publicity ads in the age of the internet is a big scam in itself. And this is one scam that will never be outed by any newspaper or TV network.

    The media outlets are no less corrupt. ABC circulation figures are fudged, eligibility categories changed and all sorts of shenanigans resorted to in order to ensure that the owner of the newspaper gets this annual windfall.

  3. Chief! I have been following u blog from quite some time ! I must congratulate you for a phenomenal piece of work and exposed that u have been doing ... I am an ardent follower of Team Anna for the obvious reason of uprooting corruption. I see a deeply disturbing trend< which is not not even a is blatantly and shamelessly Open fact> However, isnt there a single significant media house- who dares to challenged the establishment ??? If that is true and there exists none- this is shambolic and horrible for democracy!!!

  4. Vineet BhardwajMarch 26, 2012 2:44 PM

    Dear Ravi,

    There was a time when IE was a respected Newspaper - then it became a HT.

    Usually you offload a few things to keep the boat stay afloat - in this case Gupta decided to offload integrity, values and content. Good financial deal.

    No wonder IE doesnt command either same respect or readership now. Gupta thinks he has managed to survive - to me he has fallen between the two stools.

    Nice one again - Ravi


  5. IE express came into limelight during and after emergency. It supported JP movement and also exposed corruption and other scams when Arun Shorey was with it. It faced the wrath of Govt. Labour trouble was created. But then during Rajiv's regime it compromised and doomed.

  6. Shekhar Gupta is harmless. He is editorially sound - probably the reason why he's sidelined so much in mainstream news. He is far from a sycophant

    1. the way Shekhar gupta defended defenseless govt on 2G , it was clearly evident their is more than journalism he's doing.
      From his great admirer , i've only disrespect for him. He's denigrated himself.

    2. "Shekhar Gupta is harmless." - Barkha or Rajdeep are blatant cong(i) mouth pieces but it is the wolf in sheep clothes like Shekar or even SwapanDas are the ones we should be wary about!!

  7. Bail Out Package --

    It is not media which exposes the scams which are popping out every now and then, these are handy works of certain honest govt officers or some whistle -blowers . Media(especially TV) is just latching on those just to enhance their TRP's . But it is you Ravi( who is exposing these Media Crooks . One could feel the biases in those channels like END TV OR another lovely name given by you CONG NETWORK NEWS . It is so brazenly and shamefully evident in their telecast. To survive and to remain honest in these times is such an Everest job when the morals have gone so cheap and TO REMAIN HONEST sounds so IDIOTIC sometimes it feels ONE IS FOOL.Everything has a get your job done by greasing palms and in the same breath you hum praise for God seems for those people humming and listening to those bhajans is just their routine(part of their job) bribe god.. just as you indulge in sycophancy ..It is so murky out their and to make a plunge is so tempting.. KING OF GOOD TIMES is getting Bail Out Packages.Media Houses are getting ... Who will bail us out .. the 2 erstwhile colleagues of WORLD BANK one of which is PM today and another one Who,(running PLANNING COMMISSION) has given us OUR BALE OUT PACKAGE - 28 BUCKS A DAY..

  8. I agree to the view that readers of Indian Express in WEST should be very less having lived in PUNE where people's preference is for TOI. No words of appreciation is enough to RAVINAR for the excellent thoughts he has shared.I am a regular reader and in my opinion this is the most thought provoking article since other articles expose media's double standards but this one exposed the loss to the public exchequer as well.

  9. ur article is perfectly pointed, i've been reading IE from last 15 years. slowly it is getting more & more pro congress. the words Shekhar gupta used bout agitation of team Anna ,was astonishing. He just ruled out anyone challenging corruption & tried in every way to belittle agitation. I'm witness to deterioration of IE, IE didn't gave Coal scam any worthwhile space. neither it govt to task for 2g scam, even defended govt.
    Slowly & Slowly people r realizing how great journalist Shekhar gupta is.Be ready for egg on ur face, Shekhar gupta .

  10. I'm fed up of Bahu and Beta Networks, so I don't watch TV or read the drivel that is dished out daily. Splendid story as always.

  11. @civilian commander- please let all the message board users take a pledge that we would spell sycophancy right,most of us seem to think that it is spelt as "psycophancy",making it sound like a psychological disorder .Sorry for nit picking but it gives a congis to dismiss us as semi literates.

  12. @civilian commander- please let all the message board users take a pledge that we would spell sycophancy right,most of us seem to think that it is spelt as "psycophancy",making it sound like a psychological disorder .Sorry for nit picking but it gives a congis to dismiss us as semi literates.


    a proper analysis of data to reveal this fact that you have mentioned.i was just going through your archives and found this interesting article.please accept my thanks for regularly coming up with such issues.


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