क्‍या टाइम्‍स समूह में सचमुच ऐसा ही होता है?

टाइम्‍स समूह अपनी स्‍थापना के 175 साल पूरे कर रहा है. इस मौके पर टाइम्‍स ऑफ इंडिया के संपादकीय पर सौबिक चक्रवर्ती और कौशिक मुरली ने एक लेख लिखकर बताया है कि किस तरह टाइम्‍स समूह में संघीय व्‍यवस्‍था लागू है. कभी स्थिति इस तरह की होती है कि टाइम्‍स ऑफ इंडिया जो खबर प्रकाशित करता है तो इसी समूह का अखबार नवभारत टाइम्‍स इसके ठीक विपरीत खबर प्रकाशित कर देता है. वहीं मुंबई मिरर की स्‍टोरी बिल्‍कुल भिन्‍न होती है.

लेख के जरिए यह बताया गया है कि टाइम्‍स समूह में प्रत्‍येक समूह को अपने तरीके से काम करने की आजादी है. टाइम्‍स ऑफ इंडिया में प्रकाशित लेख…

Federalism: The BCCL bedrock

The Times of India is celebrating its 175th year. This is an extraordinary statistic — few brands, and even fewer media brands, stand the test of time and market for so long and so successfully. In fact, all Bennett Coleman's brands including TOI, are leaders in their respective target markets. How did TOI, and the other newspapers, TV, radio and internet brands of a 175-year-old group turn into leaders? Anyone expecting a long, complicated, indeterminate answer will be disappointed. There's a simple answer, a one-word answer, in fact: Federalism.

Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd, the company whose flagship brand is TOI, has federalism in its DNA. It is federal by nature, by instinct. That means, in terms of operational philosophy, BCCL's many publications and divisions are free to do what they want, and the federal authority (the management) encourages diversity that is truly unparalleled.

The advantage this confers over a model that emphasises "a house line or view" is this: A federal company structure allows all its publications to evolve, in different ways, with different views, approaches, at different paces, and in response to different challenges and consumer needs. A centralised authority works on the principle that it knows best, that all constituent units must receive their wisdom from one authority, that there is one view. This limits every publication's ability to be unique and different, and change and cater to their relevant readers.

BCCL, in contrast, believes that all its brands, including TOI, across various platforms need only to subscribe to a few overarching principles defining the federation. Break no laws. Don't secede. Otherwise, they are the masters of their domain, encouraged to carve out their own distinct identity and never required to follow one centrally determined line. Their freedom of thought and action is unlimited.

To illustrate, if TOI were to be considered the main BCCL publication, many times the Navbharat Times' coverage may be opposite of TOI's. The entire format and design of city-specific local newspapers like Mumbai Mirror will always be different from that of TOI's, TOI Crest will have a different style of journalism to TOI's and NBT is sometimes found to be running editorials with a headline that proudly proclaims "TOI ke virudh"! In fact, much to the consternation of many, Times Now anchors are seen fulminating against Pakistan, sometimes on the same day as TOI carries the Aman ki Asha campaign! Essentially, then, all newspapers within the group have the freedom to have entirely opposing viewpoints — unparalleled pluralism — on the same topic.

BCCL's federalism allows it to set in place a dispassionate creative process. Each unit is free to function on its own without having to constantly look over its shoulder or second-guess 'central' decision-makers or the house line. There is only one master — the reader or consumer. This allows units to react with speed and seize unexpected opportunities as they see fit. This makes the sum of many publications bigger than the sum of their parts.

Federalism for BCCL is not a matter of expediency. Federalism defines BCCL in the sense that the inspiration comes from a civilisational Indian trait. Our philosophy is derived from our respect for individual autonomy and creativity, and draws deeply from the Indian philosophy of anekantwad — the 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 language, 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 BCCL takes to it so readily. So behind that remarkable statistic, that TOI, the world's largest English language newspaper, is 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's an authority, the powers of that authority are limited by liberty and those powers diminish as the collective grows.

BCCL'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.

The word federalism derives from the Latin word foedus, meaning pact, compact or treaty. BCCL is a compact — and agreement that its many units, including its flagship brand, TOI, will chart their own destinies while remaining a part of the collective.

If there are scores of media units in the BCCL federal structure and if all of them have the liberty to take their own approach and the freedom to differ with each other, which of the many BCCL units are best described as embodying the BCCL belief system? The correct answer is, all of them.

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