‘TOI’ is perhaps one of the most recognisable abbreviations in India at the moment since it stands for the most read newspaper in the country – The Times of India. The newspaper has a daily circulation in excess of 3 million copies across the country but a spectre that looms large over the broadsheet is that of sponsored or paid news, which denies millions of its readers with the correct perspective on the happenings in the country. After all, if one of the former editors of the paper, Darryl D’Monte is to be believed, then TOI is “the most serious threat to journalism not only in this country but in the entire developing world”.
The Jain Brothers
The Jain brothers- Vineet and Samir- are the owners of the newspaper and truth be told it is their keen marketing brain that has propelled the paper as the most circulated newspaper not only in India but also in the world, at a time when newspaper circulations are dwindling everywhere else. The secret mantra of the newspaper is not really the effort to deliver credible news to the public but to deliver advertisements and supportive articles on individuals or organisations that have paid them to do so. Consider this excerpt from Vineet Jain, who is the current chairperson of the Times Group, “We are not in the newspaper business. If 90 percent of your revenues come from advertising, you are in the advertising business.”
So, there you go with the group head’s declaration that delivering news is not their main concern but advertising for their ‘clients’. For instance, the Times Group is one of the major media partners of the Indian Premier League and year upon year the front page of the paper contains reports from the tournament which is of little importance in the grander scheme of things. This is only one of those instances when readers have had to endure news that is not meant for the front page and such instances occurrences are not infrequent as the regular readers of TOI will testify. As you can realise, more than 3 million Indians wake up to news that is more about advertisement and less about perspective. In addition to that, the paper is also paid by celebrities, corporations and the like to write positive news pieces in the advertorial sections of the paper.
Why do they do this at The Times?
The answer to that question is self explanatory if you have ever read the news paper at any point of your life and most Indians who speak English have read the paper at some point. The Times of India has a much softer approach towards news at large and if you read the paper for any length of time you would notice that the papers modus operandi revolves around providing a ‘feel good’ element to its readers. You will see that news about poverty and the horrors of the day to day existence of the people of India are often relegated to the back pages in favour of news that is nothing less than promotion of certain people, products or corporations. The supplementary that is delivered daily consists exclusively of gossip from the local film industry of the state, the Hindi movie industry and some more gossip from Hollywood.
One can of course say that if the paper does not deliver news with propriety then he might as well stop reading it but that is a tough thing to do when you consider the fact that people usually have a loyalty towards a paper that they have read for decades and in this regard it might be said that The Times of India was not always the commercial juggernaut that it is now. However, the readers might as well take the drastic step in the future if and when they realise the farce that they are delivered every morning.
The Times of India has become The Times of Paid News.