Veteran journalists express their concerns about ‘paid news’ at a panel discussion
“India needs to have some strong media watchdog, which will not interfere with journalistic freedom but must come down heavily on paid news,” said Geeta Seshu, a veteran journalist She was speaking at a panel discussion organised by Moneylife Foundation on paid news, following a screening of the movie ‘Brokering News’, directed by Umesh Agarwal, which deals with the subject.
Smruti Koppikkar, associate editor (West) and bureau chief at Outlook, pointed out that disclosures of reporters or media houses holding stakes in companies or earning favours from politicians is not feasible regularly in the long run. She also said, “The problem is also that people do not want to pay for the news that they read.”
Dnyanada Deshpande, who had worked as an editor for television channel IBN Lokmat talked about the nexus between regional media publications and politicians; and also about the awards given to individuals by media houses. “If a media house manages to get some very credible people on their jury or as awardees; they legitimise their stand. People then stop questioning their content. Awards are more about who give them than who receive them.
Ranjona Banerji, eminent journalist, said, “Somewhere, media house management also needs to be held accountable and be made to introspect—because they force in a lot of content. And one must be wary of correspondents who double up as advertising agents for corporates or political parties.”
The panel discussion ended with a lively interaction with the audience which comprised many journalists and social activists, and ended in applause.
Ambani is in talks to buy Network 18, says Wall Street Journal. Earlier D E Shaw, (which has a joint venture with Reliance) bought 14% stake in NDTV
Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, India’s biggest private sector conglomerate, is apparently in talks to buy Network 18, the television and internet company, the Wall Street Journal said quoting people familiar with the situation. Network18 Media and Investments, the holding company for the conglomerate, has annual revenue of about Rs1,500 crore but makes losses.
The Network18 group is up to its neck in debt and is apparently talking with Thomson Reuters to sell a 26% stake in Newswire18, in real-time financial news agency.
The Network 18 group comprises a variety of television, print, web and entertainment properties most of which are losing money. Its main properties are collaborations with top media companies such as CNBC, CNN, MTV, Viacom, etc.
This would be the second move by Mr Ambani to acquire media control. Earlier, US-based DE Shaw, a private equity and hedge fund, entered into a joint venture agreement with Reliance Industries in India. Exactly around that time, DE Shaw acquired a 14% stake in New Delhi Television (NDTV) for Rs70 crore. NDTV which is perennially losing money, operates three news channels—NDTV 24/7, NDTV India and NDTV Profit. Viewership of these channels is plummeting after competition in each segment intensified.
According to media reports, billionaire Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest person has also been holding talks with a host of media and entertainment firms, including Walt Disney’s Indian venture UTV Software, to acquire content for its upcoming telecom venture. US-based Walt Disney holds over 50% stake in UTV Software Communications and it is in process of acquiring the entire stake in the Indian firm. A deal with Walt Disney would give RIL’s telecom venture access to a host of games, entertainment and other children-focussed content solutions.
RIL has a 95% stake in Infotel Broadband Services, marking its entry into the telecom sector. Infotel is the only company to have pan-India BWA (Broadband Wireless Access) licence.
More than two decades ago Reliance had made a bid to enter the media by buying the Observer newspaper which it ran half-heartedly and closed down. Anil Ambani, the estranged and debt-strapped younger brother of Mukesh was leading that effort. The ADAG group controlled by Anil Ambani has large stakes in TV Today and other media companies.
Out of the 37 IPOs that were launched this year, just Rs6,044 crore has been raised. The number of IPOs launched this year matches that of 2008, however, the amount raised that year was much higher due to the IPO of Reliance Power which raised Rs11,563 crore by itself
Out of the 37 IPOs that were launched this year, just Rs6,044 crore has been raised. The number of IPOs launched this year matches that of 2008, however, the amount raised that year was much higher due to the IPO of Reliance Power which raised Rs11,563 crore by itself For the year 2011 there have been 39 public issues, out of which two were follow-on public offers (FPOs) and the rest were Initial Public Offers (IPOs).With regard to performance of the IPOs, Moneylife has written about the manipulations, price rigging and erratic price movement taking place in some of the IPOs launched in the course of the year.
This has been the story every year. But compared to last year, IPO numbers have fallen. According to data compiled by Chittorgarh.com, there were 64 IPOs last year, raising a total of Rs36,362 crore. The figures have fallen drastically this year. Out of the 37 IPOs just Rs6,044 crore has been raised. The number of IPOs launched this year matches that of 2008, however, the amount raised that year was much higher due to the IPO of Reliance Power which raised Rs11,563 crore by itself.
According to SMC Global Securities, there were only three public issues for the year 2011 with issue sizes above Rs1,000 crore. This is sharply down from the 2010, when there were 14 public issues above Rs1,000 crore. Out of the 37 IPOs, 17 public issues were small ones with issue sizes below Rs100 crore.
The quality of IPOs launched this year has been sub-standard. According to Moneylife Research, just 15 IPOs out of the 37 IPOs launched this year were graded with fundamentals being average and above. Sixteen were given a rating of ‘Grade 2’ signifying below average fundamentals and six were rated ‘Grade 1’—poor fundamentals. The companies with above average fundamentals (Grade 4) were PTC India Financial Services, Muthoot Finance and TD Power Systems. L&T Finance Holdings was rated ‘Grade 5’—strong fundamentals and joined the league of Coal India and MOIL which were given the highest rating last year. A ‘Grade 5’ rating has been given to Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX India), the highly awaited public issue of is yet to open.
Seeing this quality of IPOs, subscription has been pathetic, as well. According to SMC Global, about 26 public issues have not even seen one time subscription under the Qualified Institutional Buyer (QIB) category. That is around 67% of the issues. This clearly reflects lack of conviction and confidence in the QIB circles about the IPOs during this year. Surprisingly, HNIs and retail had shown unusually high levels of risk appetite as far as IPO investing is concerned during the calendar year 2011. Their risk was rewarded by commensurate positive returns in few public issues, but many public issues have given significantly negative returns.
So, which has been the most attractive IPO of 2011? Surprisingly, or rather not surprisingly, Lovable Lingerie has been the hot favourite this year with an overall subscription being 30 times over-subscribed. The undergarment manufacturer which was rated having ‘average fundamentals’, was over-subscribed in all categories and even more than that of Coal India and L&T Finance. HNI subscription was an outstanding 99 times, whereas retail and QIB was a little moderate at 21 times. The only other IPO that was able to come close in terms of subscription was Muthoot Finance with an overall subscription of 21 times.
However, retail interest on the finance company fell. The ‘Grade 4’ IPO was subscribed just 8 times by retail investors. Major subscription came from QIBs and HNIs with 25 times and 61 times subscription, respectively. The subscription to these IPOs has been rather high considering the next highest in terms of overall subscription was Timbor Home, which was over-subscribed 5.78 times.