Is the media going overboard in its coverage of the Ambani feud?

October 14, 2009

The war of words between the billionaire Ambani brothers took an unexpected turn when younger sibling Anil offered an olive branch to elder brother Mukesh in a bid to resolve a feud over the split of the Reliance business empire in 2005.

The widespread coverage the Indian media has given to the squabble between the brothers has led to a debate on social networking sites such as Twitter, with some accusing news organisations of playing host to a reality show or soap opera that stars the Ambani family to boost ratings.

Prominent columnist Vir Sanghvi wrote through his Twitter account virsanghvi: “Do you think some network should plan a reality show on the Ambani battle? Or are they doing it already on the news?”

But the battle between the billionaire Ambani brothers is not a manufactured product for mass entertainment, as it involves two of the world’s wealthiest men and could pose a stumbling block to India’s goal of achieving energy security.

The siblings have been involved in several disputes since the family business was split in 2005 following the death of their father, Dhirubhai Ambani, a legendary Indian business tycoon who built Reliance from scratch.

The latest of these disputes is over a deal for Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries to sell gas to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Natural Resources at below-market rates as agreed in the 2005 family settlement, brokered by their mother Kokilaben.

The dispute has drawn in the government, which claims it is the rightful owner of the gas. The government can also decide who can buy gas and at what price, but it has been accused by Anil Ambani of supporting Reliance Industries.

India’s highest court has not excluded the government from the dispute between the Ambanis’ firms, and will hear the case on Oct. 20.

India, Asia’s third-largest oil consumer and which imports two-thirds of its crude oil, is hoping to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and become a new frontier for oil and gas exploration.

The Indian exploration and production sector will need $40 billion in investments by 2012, the Investment Commission of India estimates, while consultancy KPMG expects the Indian energy sector will require between $120 and $150 billion over 2007 to 2011 as Asia’s third-largest economy expands.

However, India’s latest auction of oil and gas exploration blocks evoked a tepid response, with the government indicating the Ambani dispute may have put off investors.

Now, with the stakes being so high, surely the media cannot be blamed for helping its audience navigate through the twists and turns of the maze that is the Ambani tussle?

3 comments

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Its amazing how noone has a problem when regional language news channels set agenda for the rest of the Indian media with sad and pathetic coverage of events that are just not important.Vir Snaghavi for a fact should know a HT carries the same news items on its front page which make prime time vieweing on a India Tv or Aaj Tak the previous nite. Noone seems to have a problem with that! In this case..its the question of investor’s money at stake.It is their right to get details of every bit of information that is there.
And as far as the soap opera on tv is concerned, it is very much the ambani brothers who are to blame..They are using the media as a platform to squabble or raise the white flag.

The issue raised here is not a new one and shows that the media/news channels show only what can increase their TRP’.
From their perspective its absolutely correct – since their business is to generate revenues and no better way than to show only what can generate more TRP’s. When it comes to business news, Reliance (both ADAG and RIL) have been the economic powerhouses for a v.long time now. The huge public investment in the shares of these 2 companies ensures that people want to listen to anything related to Reliance.
But again there has to be an end to all this i.e. chasing TRP’s. But the greed for TRP’s coupled with cut throat competition won’t make things any better in the near future. After, all its business.

Posted by Gaurav Mathur | Report as abusive

all said & done, the name “reliance” tends to be anything but reliable…!
the media is, as well, trying to make delicious hay of trp rating while the feud goes on..on..& on.
the ultimate sufferer is alas the investor(s)-as always.
btw what was the govt doing until the brothers’ feud was heard in the court?

Posted by r.c.narayanan | Report as abusive