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By : the editors of times Group ,  source : Times Of India

Times of India published an article on its opinion page on 29 Feb 2016  to explain the readers that how The Times Group follows a unique model, drawing on the Indian philosophy of anekantwad .  Read the article “Federalism in structure, pluralism of views” (Byline : written by the editors of The Times Group) and analyse the idea of TOI.

The word federalism derives from the Latin word foedus, meaning pact, compact or treaty. The Times of India Group is a compact – an agreement that its many units, including its flagship brand, The Times of India, will chart their own destinies, while remaining a part of the collective. These entities, including TOI, need only to subscribe to a couple of overarching principles defining the federation: Break no laws, and do not secede.

Otherwise, they are the masters of their individual domains, encouraged to carve out their own distinct identities and never required to follow one centrally determined “line”. Their freedom of thought and action is unlimited. This unique model is absolutely unparalleled in any disparate media company across the globe.

However, federalism for The Times Group is not a matter of expediency. Federalism defines the Group, in the sense that the inspiration comes from a civilisational Indian trait: Respect for individual autonomy and creativity, drawing deeply from the Indian philosophy of anekantwad, appreciation that truth is a land that can be approached from multiple paths.

Long before India was a nation-state, it was a collection of independent kingdoms and many peoples with their unique languages, traditions and cuisines. However, a certain tolerance for one another existed because of the overarching cohesive force of a similar set of principles and beliefs. Therefore, a federal structure – along with a certain unity founded on respect of each other despite the many diversities – thrived even before the audacious experiment that is modern India was born. In a sense, then, federalism has long been a part of the value system of most Indians, so it should come as no surprise that The Times Group takes to it so readily. Hence, behind that remarkable statistic, that TOI, the world’s largest English language newspaper, is now over 175 years old – is a really simple, but deeply Indian philosophy.

Federalism in this Indian tradition is, therefore, a balance between two conflicting forces that always apply to any collective human endeavour – authority and liberty. Neither can exist on its own, both need to feed off each other, and they always challenge each other. Progress is a tug of war between authority and liberty. Federalism provides for the best solution to this conflict because, while there is an authority, the powers of that authority are limited by liberty, and those powers diminish as the collective grows.

The Times Group’s federalism is, then, ultimately a reflection of its deep faith in liberty. Any collective needs an authority to stay together, but all constituents need liberty and freedom of thought and action if they, and the collective, are to evolve and flourish. A federal structure allows evolutionary dynamism; it frees all constituents from unitary determinism, the defining attribute of a centralised structure.

All of the above points to a basic underlying fact: Not only is there no central “line” or policy or indeed one single “controller” in The Times Group, but there is also a positive tendency towards “decontrol”.

To many in the media industry where ownership of media is towards an end or agenda, such a view is incomprehensible. But can a “control freak” understand the mind of the “decontrol freak”?

One way would be to exemplify how this works on a day-to-day basis.

No one “House” view or “line”. Total freedom for each separate media entity within The Times Group:

Given that The Times Group is federal by nature and instinct, many of its media entities have news and views that totally differ from each other.

For instance, Navbharat Times’ coverage may often be opposite to that of TOI’s. In fact, NBT is sometimes found to be running editorials with a headline that proudly proclaims “TOI ke virudh”! This can be unsettling for some, including editors of long experience who would otherwise claim they welcome opposite points of view; one TOIeditor, for instance, was profoundly upset that his view, as articulated on the TOI’s Edit page, had been totally opposed by his counterpart in the columns of NBT and demanded the setting up of an “editorial board for the Group”. He soon found another job.

Similarly, Anna Hazare’s social “movement” took most of the English press and its readers by storm not so long ago. However, keen observers would have noticed that The Times Group’s Maharashtra Times was far more dispassionate and blase … simply because its reporters had first-hand, decades-long experience of Anna Hazare’s tactics/agitprop in Maharashtra – and had reported in depth about their impact at the local level.

Aconstant source of speculation is why and how, Times Nowanchors are often seen fulminating against Pakistan, sometimes on the very same day when TOI may have run its Aman ki Asha campaign. In fact, Times Now’s Arnab Goswami has been asked most indignantly several times on air by dumbfounded peaceniks from both sides of the border, how he can be allowed such a hard line of questioning on Pakistan, when the TOI happened to have been doing the opposite that very morning.

The answer is simple – the two entities are completely different, indeed in separate companies, with independent teams who rarely talk to each other but flaunt their freedom to follow their own “line” as a rite of passage in their journalistic careers.

There is no one “House line” here. There can never be.

Diverse opinions, points of view often within the same newspaper:

The pluralism and freedoms described above are not just limited to different newspapers and TV channels across The Times Group – but occur within the same newspaper itself in many different ways.

For instance, the TOIoften ends up saying the opposite thing on its News and Edit/Opinion pages; this is aided by the fact that these two teams are not only separate, but also do not report in to the same editor.

In fact, the various editions of TOI are encouraged to write their own editorials to reflect local concerns and aspirations; what’s more, their positions may not always be in line with the “view from New Delhi”.

Each edition of TOI is a separate franchise:

The pluralism at play is best exemplified by the franchise model across TOI.

Each edition of the TOI is often very different from another even as the overall look and feel remains similar. This is because each edition of TOI is a different franchise – albeit governed by a set of broad rules – in the same way as the Indian franchise of a foreign magazine like, say, Grazia, is different from its franchise in another country. As a result, each edition has a separate print line, with a different editor in charge. The task of the overall TOIeditor, then, is to ensure that the independence of each editor is maintained, and to manage the system where these franchises run smoothly.

It is but obvious, then, that different resident editors are, for instance, at liberty to drop a story that is Page 1lead in a sister edition, and free to exercise their judgment on individual stories. Not only does this mean that a story of interest to Nagpur may not appear in Mumbai, but it would also mean that often, stories that one might read in South Mumbai or Bandra or Andheri, do not appear in even Navi Mumbai.

This is systematised wherein the TOI editor asks, for instance, editions to split their evening news lists into three sections – National, State and Local – based on each bureau chief’s judgment of the extent of relevance of a story. Obviously, there is an element of subjectivity inherent in any such sectionalisation. But the final decision on which “outstation” stories to use, rests with individual editions, based on their mental and physical distance from the edition where a story originates.

The decentralised nature of TOI is underlined by the editor’s observation in an internal note that even when he travels to editions outside Delhi and Mumbai, he consciously takes a backseat during the evening news meeting – as he does not trust himself to know for sure what Ahmedabad or Chennai or Bangalore or even Kolkata, should or should not play up on Page 1 or inside. “In Chennai, for instance, I’m told the obsession with Pakistan is far less than in Delhi”, he pointed out.

Why do we say “mental and physical distance”? Some years ago, the company decided to distribute the Bangalore instead of the Mumbai edition of The Economic Times in Kochi – due to proximity. But readers in Kochi weren’t happy. They said they related more to the Mumbai edition, and it didn’t matter that Bangalore was the nearest large city in south India.

All of this makes the editors’ job of selecting stories that much more difficult. On any given day, even editions with relatively generous space are not able to use more than perhaps 10% of what the national network produces – because an overwhelming majority of stories are used only in the edition of origin, and nowhere else. There is nothing wrong with that – 95% of the stories that even Pune or Nagpur produce, do not appear in Mumbai; similarly, most of the stories that Mangalore or Mysore or Hubli produce, do not make it into the Bangalore edition.

Any insistence, then, on all editions carrying the same story with the same emphasis, would therefore mean trying to enforce a single line, and would go against all the precepts outlined above – of federalism and liberty – and would militate against the Group’s dharma of plurality.

A question that is often asked is, if there are scores of media units in The Times Group’s federal structure, and if all of them have the freedom to differ with one another, then which of the Company’s many units best embodies the “Times” belief system?

The answer is: All of them.

This is only achieved because in terms of operational philosophy, The Times Group’s many publications and divisions are free to do what they want, and the federal authority (the management) encourages diversity that is truly unparalleled across any media company in the world.

The advantage this confers over a model that emphasises “a House line” or “view” is this: A federal media company structure allows all its publications to evolve, in different ways, with different views, approaches and at different paces, in response to different challenges and consumer needs. The Times structure allows units to react with speed and seize unexpected opportunities as they see fit. This makes the Group larger than the sum of its many parts.

A centralised authority works on the principle that it knows best, that all constituent units must receive their wisdom from a single person or body, and that there is one view. This limits every unit’s ability to be unique and different – and change and cater to their relevant readers/viewers.

Link to the original story :http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toi-editorials/federalism-in-structure-pluralism-of-views/