Change of Hands, New Editor at Deccan Chronicle

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HYDERABAD: Veteran journalist Aditya Sinha has taken over as Editor-in-Chief of the south-based Deccan Chronicle and Delhi-based Asian Age – two major media establishments owned and operated by one group based in Hyderabad. The DCHL group was run for long years as a public limited company by former Congress MP Venkattram Reddy (Ram Reddy). Aditya Sinha, a good professional, is believed to be pro-BJP.

Image Source: The Hindu

Also joining the media establishment as Resident Editor in Hyderabad is Sriram Karry, while Sinha would split his time between New Delhi and Hyderabad. Deccan Chronicle has a large circulation base in Hyderabad as also the rest of Telangana, while the daily has marginal presence in other southern states. Asian Age does not have a strong readership base anywhere and survived on ad revenues for the DC. Two existing senior editors with the Deccan Chronicle in Hyderabad are Nataraj and Kashinath, besides Manjula Reddy, wife of Venkattram Reddy. She handled the Tabloid section, and also other major editorial responsibilities. 

The appointment of a new Editor-in-Chief follows a change in management of the Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd, which had run into debt, seriously affecting the financial stability of the firm since 2012. It was suspected that the Reddy family which ran the paper diverted funds into real estate and other ventures before a time when the realty sector was on the verge of a slowdown. By fighting cases through various channels, the Reddys tried to hold on to the apex of the group for over eight years – similar to a scenario of several NPAs, or bad debt holders, of banks fooling around under the UPA and NDA dispensations, making merry and making more money. Political connections and other tricks helped the Reddys carry on until now.

The company finally moved into the hands of SREI & CoC, weeks ago, and there are those who suspect a Venkattram Reddy hand behind this lesser-known firm too. The newspaper claims a circulation of over 13 lakh copies a day.

AT Jayanti And Aditya Sinha

Long-standing Editor, AT Jayanti, has stepped aside while Aditya Sinha took over. Aditya Sinha is a former Editor of the New Indian Express, based out of Chennai, and he later served as Editor for a brief period with DNA in Mumbai. Aditya Sinha started as a crime reporter in Delhi, worked with Times of India, The Pioneer, the Hindustan Times etc, and eventually headed one of the week-end sections of HT, before moving into The New Indian Express around year 2010.

Jayanti, who worked with some weekly publications in Mumbai, was brought into Deccan Chronicle as resident editor by MJ Akbar who, at one time, headed the media’s editorial board. After Ram Reddy eased out Akbar, Jayanti took charge of the paper in the 1990s, and carried on for long years as Editor. She is perhaps the Editor with the longest innings — outside of the proprietor-Editor kind of set-up elsewhere. Jayanti, unlike other editors, hardly ever wrote articles or comments, but concentrated entirely on tough and strong-willed administration. She kept the staff on their toes. Shouting came naturally to her. She’s not completely out of the picture now, and is on a “sabbatical” or on paid leave, as Ram Reddy made clear at a meeting of the editorial staff the other day.

DECCAN CHRONICLE

The Reddy brothers took control of Deccan Chronicle in 1977 – when they bought it for just Rs two lakh from the Mudaliar Brothers who had started it in 1938 as a people’s paper. The deal came through after the company faced problems of debt, helping Reddys get it for a song. Talks were also that the Reddys took the help of the employees’ union in DC to ease out the Mudaliars and get the media establishment into their hands.

In later years, the media group was turned into a holding company listed on stock market. Based on the assets, the Reddys took huge loans from banks – the liabilities totalling over Rs 4,000crore over a period of time, and then started defaulting on repayments. It is said that the company used much of the money to diversify business, like starting an aviation firm – around the time another southern business honcho Vijay Mallya too took to such a fancy venture – and lost money heavily. The Reddys also started a cricket franchise, the Deccan Chargers, as also a book store, a leisure outlet etc, besides putting money allegedly in real estate ventures.

Financial problems hit the company and by year 2012 IFCI filed a case at the Andhra Pradesh High Court seeking the liquidation of Deccan Chronicle. IFCI said it feared the company was about to disintegrate. Thereafter, the Hyderabad-based Karvy Group of financial enterprises filed a complaint against company chairman Venkattram Reddy, vice chairman Vinayak Ravi Reddy who is brother of Venkattram Reddy, and a financial consultant for the firm, PK Iyer who was designated as CFO. They were accused of forgery and misrepresentation. The case went on and on for nearly eight years, and the Indian systems allowed things to drag and drag. 

Venkattram Reddy was generous with the staff, but rarely showed up at DC. His interests were more with the horse race club in Hyderabad, and left administration to his brother Vinayak Reddy.  “Venkattram Reddy wanted to shape himself as a business tzar like Vijay Mallya, and hence tried to enter the aviation industry. He paid advances for a fleet of aircraft, but failed to make the rest of the payments. The advance of about a hundred crore was lost. This added to the financial problems for DCHL,” a source at the media firm said.

— The writer formerly worked as a Consultant with Deccan Chronicle in Hyderabad.

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About Prem Chandran 21 Articles
The writer is a media consultant, former Editor, and an activist of the India Against Corruption. EOM