Media ownership: interesting indicators

BY hoot desk| IN Media Business | 04/03/2011
Interesting indicators emerge from the mandatory March declarations. About the investments made by the Ambani brothers in media, and about the presence of companies registered in Mauritius in the shareholding of media companies.
The Hoot Desk
March 1 is the time of year when newspapers declare their shareholding, so attention turns briefly to the issue of media ownership. On March 1 Delhi newspapers printed the Form IV with mandatory disclosure on ownership, and who the printer, publisher, editor etc. are. For television there is no such stipulation but when the company is listed you can get information on shareholding from their website, posted in March every year. 
From the two together some interesting indicators emerge. About the investments made by the Ambani brothers in media, and about the presence of companies registered in Mauritius in the shareholding of media companies as well as among subsidiaries of media companies.. There is a pattern here. The Radia tape transcripts would suggest that Mukesh Ambani does put his money into media companies. He has from time to time been mentioned as a benefactor of major media companies with no proof having surfaced so far. However his companies are not visible investors, they do not show up as investors in the media houses’ listings. Anil Ambani’s companies on the other hand are listed in the declarations made by both print and TV companies. The Anil Dhirubai Ambani Group (ADAG) is investing in media stocks, and in the process buying into news businesses.
The Hindustan Times and Mint for instance have identical declarations in their form IV and two Reliance companies are listed. Since government regulations for print media  merely require that all shareholders who own more than one per cent of the company’s shares be declared, and not the actual percentage of each, the paper does not declare percentages. But information gleaned from declarations made elsewhere suggests that shareholding is 2.88 per cent for the Reliance Capital Trustee Company and 1.25 per cent for Reliance Life Insurance Company Ltd. Except for TV Today, the Anil Ambani Group’s shareholdings are not significant. IBN 18 which owns and operates CNN IBN and IBN7, also  declared shareholding from one of the ADAG companies.  Reliance Capital Ltd ‘s shareholding in IBN 18 has come down from 9 per cent in March 2008 to 1.11 per cent in Dec 2010. In between  Reliance Capital Trustee Co. Ltd came in as a shareholder and exited later.
TV Today which owns Headlines Today and Aaj Tak  last March listed Reliance Capital as a 14.02 per cent shareholder, and Reliance Capital Trustee Co. Ltd also had a shareholding of 1.47 per cent in the media company.
Both Reliance groups have long been weighty factors  in the media business as advertisers. Now ADAG has its own media empire, with radio, film and TV software companies and is  investing in  other media businesses. Reliance Capital Trustee Co. Ltd  was an investor in NDTV as of March 2008 with 5.62 per cent shareholding but was no longer a shareholder in March 2010.
As for the Mukesh Dhirubai Ambani Group,  the Radia tapes brought out into the open a nexus with INX Media with Niira Radia as the intermediary. And a suggestion in one of the conversations that Prannoy Roy’s NDTV had to be helped. Also buttressing this was a abruptly edited conversation in which Barkha Dutt was heard to be thanking one of Mukesh Ambani’s trusted men profusely. But neither fact adds up to proof of any MDAG investment in NDTV. As for the furious gossip about the extent of Barkha Dutt’s shareholding in NDTV, a scrutiny of the shareholding pattern available for all to access shows that Barkha Dutt currently has a shareholding of no more than 0.06 per cent.
As for the Mauritius angle to media ownership, HT Media and Mail Today have a shareholder each registered in Mauritius, and IBN18 has a 100 per cent subsidiary registered in Mauritius called  ibn18 (Mauritius) Limited. Mail Today lists AN (Mauritius) as a shareholder in its Form IV, and HT Media lists HPC (Mauritius) Ltd. Last March NDTV listed three Mauritius-based finance and investment companies among its shareholders.
The Indian Express, the Hindu, and the Times of India and Economic Times among other major newspapers, do not seem to have any outside ownership at all. Both papers of the Times group list a host of companies with a 10 Daryaganj address as their shareholders. These are the group’s own companies. No individuals are named as shareholders of the companies which own these newspapers.



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