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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sun, Son and Beyond

With the amount of space I devote to Sun TV bashing, I might as well start a separate dedicated blog on the same topic. The Assembly elections might be over, but the news around Sun Network refuses to die.

Sevanti Ninan, a regular media affairs columnist with The Hindu writes about the dominance and bullying tactics of Sun Network. The Hindu’s promixity to the Maran family and to the DMK would ensure that such an article never makes it to The Hindu. Sevanti Ninan chose to publish her article in The Hoot as The Hindu refused to carry her article. Unfortunately, The Hoot doesn’t reach the common man and Sevanti Ninan’s article might not find its way to the intended audience.

All of that clout is used to protect an extraordinary monopoly: a cable network, Sumangali Cable Vision that has sewn up the entire state and has been known to pull out the plug when it does not want the state watch something that is not complimentary to the DMK. And a monopoly on TV news. Sun TV has the only statewide news channel in Tamilnadu. Thanks to the nature of Kalanidhi Maran’s clout Jayalalitha’s Jaya TV has not succeeded in getting clearance for a proposed news channel, applied for in May 2004. Brother Dayanidhi’s Communication Ministry has to give a clearance even if Information and Broadcasting is the nodal ministry for permitting new news channels. And other channels with news ambitions, Star Vijay and Raj TV, have given up.

Together the two monopolies come in handy. Brother Dayanidhi’s alleged attempt to arm twist the Tatas and Star into parting with a controlling stake of their DTH venture, has become an election issue. He is fighting the allegations, and has slapped a defamation suit on the newspaper which broke the story. Last fortnight, Sumangali simply blacked out all channels for fifteen minutes or more because Jaya TV had announced a discussion on this topic! Not to be outdone, Jaya TV then featured the black out as a news item later in the evening. Meanwhile, Jayalalitha’s government has tried to take over SVC, but without success.

S R Ramanujan has another article in The Hoot on the same topic.

Whatever the legal ramifications, the perception is that SUN network would like to have a stranglehold over the entire media world and thus control the thought process of the people. Is the trend compatible with a democratic society? Among the literate sections, the SUN network is seen as a bully not content with finishing its rivals in the field, but to take on major industrial houses as well to reinforce its monopoly in the media world. Is this not the time for the powers-that-be to have a fresh look at the "cross-media ownership" and monopolistic trends? The SUN model is a real threat to free society that should promote and encourage diverse viewpoints.

Jaya TV of course, is no better. But being a minor player, it is a lesser evil.

Sun TV’s dominance has also not gone down well with media persons as well. Alaphia of NDTV explains how Sun Network misused its power in the coverage of the swearing-in ceremony.

The swearing-in ceremony was a disaster held in the nauseating heat of an indoor stadium bursting beyond capacity. Sun TV's pre-eminence was on display with their cameras getting the best positions and live coverage of a horribly organised event.

The Hindu justifies Maran-DTH coverage

When the New Indian Express broke the story about Dayanidhi Maran – Tata DTH controversy, people were curious to how The Hindu is going to report it. The Hindu never gave coverage to the main story. The only news The Hindu carried was the demand by opposition parties like BJP and ADMK demanding the resignation of Dayanidhi Maran. Although The Hindu’s Readers’ Editor has justified the way in which The Hindu handled the issue, I doubt whether people are going to buy his story.

I am here not concerned with the details of the charges against Mr. Dayanidhi Maran, but with how The Hindu dealt with the story.

The first time the paper took note of the development was when it reported on April 27 the BJP's and Mr. Vaiko's demand for action against Mr. Maran. That brought in immediate reactions from readers. The policy of not reporting in detail or recycling political allegations made during election campaigns could not be offered as a cover for the inadequacies in this report. It missed out on basic points, as a reader pointed out, of what was the issue it termed serious, what was the family business referred to, and who did what.

There was no need to go into the details of the charges, which did not acquire authenticity because of publication in a newspaper. But it should have been possible to include those details that are fundamental to any news report that make it understandable to readers. The best newspaper practice would have suggested getting Mr. Maran's reaction to the published report and following up or developing the story in that way.

Boring Buddhas and Stale Sons

Commenting on the recent election coverage by the various TV channels, Aloke Thakore asks the channels to drop the clichés and try something new:

May anchors and copy editors save the reader and viewer from such trite constructions as Laughing Buddha or Smiling Buddha or rising son or son rising. May they remember that Buddha and sons are not about to disappear any time soon and continue the search for more conceits and clichés by, may be, relying on alliteration.

TN Media: Partisan to the core

In another excellent article, S R Ramanujan analyzes the state of the Tamil MSM and throws some light on the polarized and biased nature of the various newspapers and magazines.

But Maran’s real trump card was its price of one rupee whereas other dailies price ranged from Rs 3 to Rs 4/. He also saw to it that the new paper’s 16 colour pages were designed in such a way that they looked attractive and mod-ish in sharp contrast to the competitors. Within a few weeks the multi-edition daily started selling a million copies because of the price and fresh look. Tamilians have the habit of going out in the morning to fetch milk sachets for their "Kapi". They didn’t mind spending just a rupee for 16 pages, whatever be its editorial content. This helped Maran to create a sort of revolution in the newspaper industry, catching other dailies off-guard.

However, Maran’s business rivals claim what they lost were their trained staff for a fat pay packet in the SUN stable and not their circulation.

The Tamil air is full of arithmetic these days. Therefore, the attention is on the economics of "Dinakaran". The production cost of the daily is estimated to be around Rs 7. With a sale price of Rs one, Maran will be subsidizing every copy by at least Rs 6, thus incurring a loss of Rs 60 lakhs a day. Even with all the financial muscle of the network, he cannot continue this for ever. Either he has to increase the sale price like the Deccan Chronicle did in Tamil Nadu or go in for combined ad tariff for both television and print to offset the losses at least on paper. Well, now that his purpose has been achieved with his grand father’s party in power, he does not have to be as aggressive as he has been in pushing the paper.


  • yesterday scv made a similiar blackout of all channels from
    9 30 pm to 10 00 pm .

    this was because jaya tv made an announcement that they were showing a programme that karunidhi was supporting ltte

    the broadcast resumed at 10 00 pm

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:57 PM  

  • Very well compiled article!
    Scary part is that there seems to be no neutral player. The only person who we can hope to break the monopoly is Jaya TV - only to create another monopoly!
    God save information integrity in TN!

    By Blogger Sudheer Narayan, at 2:17 AM  

  • Thats a pretty comprehensive post. Thanks for the links.

    Most Tamil media has been always polarised but it is frightening to realise that the political, media and business power accumulating with one family. I think more than Kalaignar realising the importance of media for politics, it seems that the Maran brothers have understood the means of exploiting power for their business. It is a very dangerous situation


    By Blogger SLN, at 4:32 AM  

  • Very nice compilation of articles. Its very scary to see that monopoly is going flourish in the next 5 years. I doubt if anyone will be able to stop them before the end these 5 yrs. And the people in Tamilnadu have a strong believe that Sun news is the only trust worthy news, this belief is going to black out the fairness in the news that is given to the people. Is there a way the people can be saved from tihs monopoly?

    By Blogger KK, at 11:16 AM  

  • Surprising to see that you have not covered the anti-reservation agitation (especially that by doctors)that is big and current in India.
    Looks like the selective coverage of current issues in your blog is like the reporting by Sun and Jaya TV ;-) that you cover well in your blog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:45 AM  

  • An excellent compilation article. Wish this one could be read by more people.

    Politicians controlling the media is a very dangerous thing. Although there will be subjectivity in all forms of media, it should be tried to be kept at minimum as far as news coverage is concerned. It is disheartening that one-sided news coverage is prevailing for so long in the largest democracy in the world, and that newspapers like Hindu that need to be neutral are taking sides.

    All the time and space you are devoting to Sun TV bashing is justified and much needed.

    By Blogger Nithya, at 2:50 AM  

  • This is an excellent summary kaps.
    The polarization is across the board. During the results coverage, Jaya TV was showing that ADMK was leading till the afternoon.
    The absolute power that the maran family exerts through its media interests and ministerial involvement is a travesty thanks to the compulsions of coalition politics.

    By Blogger Jayesh, at 12:22 PM  

  • The Hindu Sucks big time. The Hindu is highly biased towards left-liberals and DMK party. Shame on The Hindu.
    1.The Chief editor N.Ram now gives talk to left organisations that FDI is bad, bcos they may face foreign competition.
    2.The Hindu has given false complaints on Deccan Chronicle nearly 10 times since they started circulation in chennai, recently Bombay HC ruled in favor of Deccan Chronicle.

    Surely The Hindu is afraid of competition.

    I find The Hindu morally corruptive for untrained minds in logic and critical thinking.

    Hindu Sucks

    By Anonymous Anonymous Coward, at 4:17 AM  

  • @Anon,
    What else do u expect from SCV?

    i think the existing players have no choice but to align to one of the political parties. Raj TV is slightly neutral, but they were at the receiving end since they showed Vijayakanth / Vaiko.

    Last heard that Kalaignar is at the mercy of the Marans.

    Sun News dominates the news space...but most of the people are intelligent and are aware of of Sun TV's leanings.

    Thanks for dropping by. I wish this reaches more people.

    I also read about the comedy how each channel gave distorted news.

    @Anon Coward,
    I can understand your frustration.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 1:19 PM  

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