Lots of Opportunities since the new regime came in. Let’s make lots of money. If you have the inclination, we have the crime.
In just the previous post we looked at how Hindustan Times with its HT Summit splurged on public money. Most of their major sponsors being big time PSUs and govt companies. Even the poor man’s work insurance corporation, ESIC, seems to have found compelling reasons to invest in HT Summit. Part of that unholy trinity of media I wrote about is CNN-IBN, HT’s media side-kick. It’s Managing Editor, Rajdeep Sardesai (RS), often likes to talk about “integrity”. Look at the samples. In the first tweet from February 2010 he yearns for “news with integrity” and in the second one, from July 2012, he complains about his integrity being questioned. “Those who abuse...” he says. Actually, anything that questions or ridicules our media celebs is nothing but ‘abuse’. The second tweet is because he had to apologise for an earlier stupid and tasteless tweet of his. When Deep Throat said “follow the money” he damn well knew what he meant. Pursuit of news and stories never resulted in loss of integrity but pursuit of extraordinary wealth has often led to loss of integrity. For almost a month my Twitter friend Suresh Nakhua has been asking questions of RS and CNN-IBN; tricky, troublesome questions which, of course, would amount to ‘abuse’ in the world of RS.
In this post I will just summarise the questions by Suresh Nakhua who has storified the financial joyride of CNN-IBN and certain group companies in his post “Few questions for@sardesairajdeep & some unknown facts abt CNNIBN”. In other words Suresh has just tried to follow the money. Before you look at the maze of companies, here is a company that became part of Global Broadcast News Ltd (GBN). And it’s splendidly titled ‘SRH New Holding Private limited’.
Well, well, all the names from the CNN-IBN family are there. Sardesai, Bahl, Anubha, Chaubeji, Vidya Shankar and, of course, Cacofonix. Don’t read too much into that because there is nothing wrong there. This is just to share the ‘dramatis monetis’. All you need to do is follow Suresh’s tweets on that page sequentially and enlarge the images contained in each. You will find integrity in each. So here are the questions that remain unanswered:
1. SRH was a loss making company so how did it end up giving loans worth 19.71 crores? Hmm! One could say “we are a private company and it’s none of your business”. Yeah, so you can’t be in the public domain and keep screaming about integrity either.
2. The remuneration of Jt. MD, Sameer Manchanda, exceeds the limits prescribed under the Companies Act. The explanation is that GOI approval has been sought and if not received the moneys will be returned. Clever? First commit the offence and then claim the money is being held in “trust” and if the approval is not received, it will be returned. Integrity!
3. At March 2006 GBN had a loss of 46.53 crores. It’s a perfect qualification to receive an “unsecured loan” of 40 crores during the year, isn’t it? We shouldn’t complain about the loan itself. It should be of interest to all of us who or what entity gives such loans just in case we anticipate huge losses too. Needless to say, you need integrity.
4. To run your business you do need some pocket money at times. Who’s your daddy? Of course, Syndicate Bank. So you have this bank lending an unsecured loan of 5 crores to tide over festival periods. While the title shows the amount as ‘secured borrowings’ the statement says ‘NIL’ against security created. What was it secured with, integrity? Do read the article on Reliance and ‘Raghav’s Endgame’ squeezed in between.
5. Then Raghav Bahl, the Chairman of TV18 group, has some 7 Income tax cases pending against him. That’s normal if you’re running a large group of media companies, nothing to worry. Then in another page that Suresh produces, an IT penalty of over 1Cr has been reduced to a mere Rs.53461. Nice, isn’t it? Who’s your daddy? Integrity?
6. That’s all. Oh yes, there’s this small thing apart from the IT cases, there is an ROC case against Raghav Bahl that is pending. Oh, one more thing. There is this e-Eighteen.Com and Victor Fernandes who claim Bahl & Co. illegally diverted their businesses and are demanding over 3000 crores in compensation. If I read correctly, it claims there was an undertaking that TV18 would route business distribution through e-Eighteen which Bahl is accused of breaking. Integrity! Not the kind of program that will be debated on CNN-IBN or any of its group channels for sure.
There is hardly any doubt that since the arrival of the UPA govt in 2004 there has been a dramatic growth in the fortunes of certain media companies. People were complaining of the amount of tax-payer money on the recently executed terrorist Ajmal Kasab. He’s just one guy. The amount of tax-payer money certain media outlets may be guzzling without notice is like silent killers; like Cancer or Diabetes. I have stated earlier that our news media is the first line of defence for the corrupt. Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have been spending a lot of effort on politicians. If they spent half that effort on media houses I have absolutely no doubts that corruption and financial misdeeds will start diminishing in every other sphere. And next time Rajdeep Sardesai talks about integrity I suggest you have a good laugh. At least laughing doesn’t cost anything.
*The title is from a Pet Shop Boys song.