Media Musical Chairs Continues, Zakaria Could Replace Sardesai As Next TV 18 Face


PRLog (Press Release)Apr. 29, 2014NEW DELHI, India NEW DELHI: In an age when mainstream media is finding new power and ability to manufacture consent and create personalities, top journalists at the helm of television and big newspapers are becoming increasingly vulnerable to corporate inspired sackings. News that Rajdeep Sardesai, the face of CNN-IBN is in the market looking for a job, has been almost immediately been followed by reports that the Ambani search for a replacement could stop at Fareed Zakaria, of Time magazine and CNN fame.

Zakaria belongs to Mumbai, where his mother Fatima still lives. He has built an amazing career in the United States, and after editing Time magazine, hosts a show on CNN. He went through a bad patch in August 2012 when he was suspended by both for a column on gun control that was remarkably similar to a Jill Lepore article that had appeared in New Yorker. Zakaria apologised unreservedly and said he had made a terrible mistake. Time and CNN reinstated him within aweek saying that the incident was isolated, and that Zakaria had apologised for what they described as a journalistic lapse.

Zakaria has been fairly subdued since then, although earlier he was seen in the US as a journalist friend described it at the time, “a high and fast rolling machine.” At a time when television in India is looking for new and high profile faces his name is making the rounds for heading TV 18 that is one of the few concerns where the Ambani’s have recognised and declared stakes. Mukesh Ambani in fact, now control Eenadu TV and TV 18, with the ‘indirect finger’ in the NDTV pie being written about, and never really denied.

Not so senior journalists, largely described as the work force in television news channels are the most expendable commodity with large scale sackings almost commonplace. Reporters, producers, cameramen and others who constitute the faceless team of television channels are periodically re-trenched in numbers exceeding 200 at a time without warning, or even a minimal handshake. In News X earlier the news was broken to the employees when they reported for work in the morning, and were told that they could not even go inside the building to pick up their belongings. More recently TV 18 resorted to a similar sacking with nearly 200 employees being thrown out without warning or without any support from the seniors who led them.

Rajdeep Sardesai and Raghav Bahl who came together to set up this particular enterprise together at one stage, have fallen out. Bahl is described by Wikipedia as, “an Indian businessman best known for his ownership of several television channels, including TV 18 India.He is founding/controlling shareholder and Managing Director of Network 18 group.”

India Today reporting on Mukesh Ambani’s entry had said in early 2012, “Network18 is the promoter of TV18 which operates channels such as CNN-IBN, IBN7, IBN-Lokmat, CVBC-TV18 and CNBC Awaaz. The deal involves Ambani bailing out the debt-ridden Network18 and TV18 with an investment of Rs.3,800 crore in return for preferential access to Network18 and TV18′s content. In what is a stroke of genius, Ambani has wrested ‘control’ of a large part of Indian electronic media with an out-of-the-box swap strategy. The content is for Ambani’s foray into 4G broadband services.”

High salaries have become part of the media structure, with ownership patterns and assets rarely known or declared. Newspapers and television channels are constantly hounded by news of covert takeovers, and bail out packages from unidentified corporate houses. In fact a specific editors extension or dismissal is often explained by his ability, or otherwise, to bring in money to keep the media house in ‘running condition.’ But the rumours remain in the realm of informed speculation, with insufficient information to corroborate the rumours about the real ownership.

Several changes are in the offing with Editor in Chief of the Indian Express Shekhar Gupta reported to be on his way out. He is said to be joining India Today that has been headless as well for a while now, with owner Aroon Purie on the search for a ‘big name’. Shekhar is expected to announce his decision soon, and will be leaving with at least a couple of his senior colleagues.

Purie himself parted way with former editor MJ Akbar and has since been on the look out for an editor to follow the editorial line of the magazine. It is reported that a former editor of a south newspaper was approached for the job but found too ‘progressive’ for the India Today group to handle. It is not clear who will replace Gupta in the Indian Express and it will remain to be seen whether the cash strapped organisation is willing to spend the big bucks it takes to get a star journalist in, or be content with in- house promotions.

News X bought over by Information TV that is owned by Kartikeya Sharma. Of course the monetary details of such takeovers are rarely available in the public domain. News X has been a particularly jinxed enterprise originally launched by ex-Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea, sold as a failed enterprise to Indi Media Network, jointly owned by Nai Duniya’s Vinay Chhajlani and Jehangir Pocha with lobbyist Nira Radia mysteriously involved, and re-sold to Sharma who is now reportedly also the proud owner of MK Akbar’s Sunday Guardian. Sharma’s father is a politician, the sitting MLA from Ambala; his brother Manu Sharma is in jail in the Jessica Lal murder case.

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