December 13, 2019
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All the dope on Amar Singh's booze-abuse, Ram Naik's oil-spills, TV-tattles, paper-battles, bad ads and other cads.

Biz Buzz
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Why is Samajwadi leader Amar Singh in tension? This time it's not because a channel is targeting his friend Amitabh Bachchan but because the Samajwadi Party leader has been served a notice from the Department of Excise for having served liquor at a lavish party he organised on January 26, 2001. And guess who was the star attraction of the show? Well, besides Amitabh Bachchan and the routine lineup from Mumbai, the list also included the Prime Minister's foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya, who came with his family and stayed late. Singh, last heard, was wondering how to handle the crisis.

When it's oil, there has to be politics. And it could be strange as well. Consider the latest case in point wherein investigating agencies have found that Petroleum and Natural Gas minister Ram Naik sanctioned licenses for as many as 20 petrol pumps to MPs belonging to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh which is going to the polls next month. Is this a move to keep Mayawati and company happy? Perhaps yes. And more so because the BSP -- according to party insiders -- is a better bet than the SJP. And surprisingly, this comes after all the hullaballo over the Vincent George case.

This is not sweet news for Citibank. After all, for years it took pride in displaying its million-dollar line: The Citi never sleeps. And why not? It had a lion's share in the 6.5 million credit card market. But now, the Standard Chartered merger with ANZ Grindlays has put Citibank in the number two slot. So what next? An aggressive marketing drive (which includes a drastic reduction of fee of the once-exalted Diners Card and offers for college students) and a series of new campaigns over the next couple of months.

Is this a fightback time for Zee Telefilms? While channel owner and promoter Subhash Chandra granted interviews to a selected few in the Indian Capital and waxed eloquent on the channel's relation with tainted broker Ketan Parekh, its new CEO Sandip Goyal has already started what he calls the first exercise to beef up content. The first move is to poach Raveena Raj Kohli, Channel9 India's programming chief and get -- within a short span -- at least four good programmes on air. But yes, the channel is yet to pick up the much-talked about stake in Tehelka and is still not sure whether it should continue negotiations with filmstar Ashutosh Rana to revive Sawaal Dus Crore Ka. Interestingly, Goyal -- after Subhash Chandra -- will be visiting the Indian Capital next week to meet a number of senior bureaucrats to explain the channel's point of view (that it's not against any party but corruption in government).

The Ambanis, it seems, will never be out of news. Consider the latest proposal from Makers Chamber IV to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). The group has suggested that the government should work out a plan wherein (to start with) buildings housing all government organisations would replace almost anything and everything that is made of wood. Why? Because the group feels hard plastic - which it gets in abundance as by-product from its refineries -- is an excellent, eco-friendly alternative. And with a wholelot of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) already clamouring for ban on felling of trees, the PMO -- it's reliably learnt -- has forwarded the same to the Ministry of Urban Development for a detailed analysis.

Information and Broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj appears to be on a warpath. Recently, Swaraj instructed Prasar Bharati CEO Anil Baijal to scrap a major project the board had sanctioned to Mumbai-based Nimbus Communications. The project, which allowed Nimbus officials to work out of the precincts of Mumbai Doordarshan, was to produce business bulletins for over four hours from Monday to Friday at a whopping cost of Rs 35 lakhs per week. But why was the programme cancelled? First, it was found out that Nimbus Communications had no prior experience in handling serious business programmes and secondly, there were relatives of Principal Secretary and Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra on the board of the company. And finally, Nimbus had been blacklisted by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for not clearing DD's dues. Is that an open rebellion by a section of the NDA cabinet against the Prime Minister's Office (PMO)?

After Sandip Goyal of Rediffusion shifting as CEO to Zee, what is the next big move in the Indian advertising industry? First, there are talks about HTA president Sunil Gupta being elevated, though not many are clear as to why is Gupta being elevated as a chief financial officer (CFO). Secondly, what is the amount Reebok paid spinner Harbhajan Singh for a two-year contract? Insiders claim it's almost the same as what Coke is currently paying Hrithik. Any guesses for the amount?

Will this be a case of right to freedom of expression? Or will it be a case of an advertisement in bad taste? The Bennett Coleman group, it's reliably learnt, has sued Equus Advertising CEO Suhel Seth and Indian Express group of newspapers CEO Shekhar Gupta for an undisclosed amount for carrying what the Times group said was an outright defamatory campaign. But what did the campaign show? Well, it showed The Times of India as plain toilet paper and urged readers to switch to The Indian Express. This happened in Pune where Express officials claim their daily is read by more people than The Times of India despite the latter's higher sales.

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