New Delhi: The Indian media business may be booming but media companies here are yet to wake up to media liability insurance which covers their legal costs in defamation and other suits and, should they lose these cases, the settlement too.
Many say they their experience shows that it doesn’t make sense buying expensive insurance.
“We have not taken a media liability insurance because in the past 70-odd years of Jagran’s existence, though like every good paper we have been sued numerous times, we have never really paid out a significant amount to warrant buying insurance,” said R.K. Agarwal, chief financial officer, Jagran Prakashan Ltd, publisher of Dainik Jagran, India’s largest read daily.
“...in the 15 years of our existence...we have had several cases against us, but we have never had to pay,” said Maheshwar Peri, publisher of Outlook magazine.
Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, which publishes The Times of India and The Economic Times, is uncovered, said G. Subramaniam, the company’s chief financial officer. Nor is HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, Hindustan Times, and Hindustan, according to Harish Nagpal, an assistant vice-president at the company.
Peri said that it made sense for a company practising a “lot of investigative journalism” to take such cover but even Tehelka, a magazine that has come to be associated with such reporting, doesn’t have cover.
“We don’t have any such insurance. We have’t really thought about it. There are just too many other things to worry about. But may be one of these days we will go for it,” said Tarun Tejpal, editor-in-chief and publisher of Tehelka.
Several factors could change the situation and make more companies here take media liability cover.
The first is the threat of lawsuits involving claims for significant damages. The second is the Internet, which means that an Indian media firm could be sued in the US for an article published on its website. And the third is Indian media’s growing internationalisation. “In fact many foreign publishers insist on this coverage when they enter into a partnership to publish in India,” said Peri.
“All the big media firms globally have adequate insurance covering all the countries they operate in as well as all their platform...,” said Aruno Rajaratnam, managing director, financial institutions and executive risks, Willis (Singapore) Pte Ltd.
“We are handling at least three media liability cases where the claimed amount exceeds Rs10 crore. These are high-profile cases involving big media firms and national level political parties and politicians,” said Trinath Tadaka-malla, a lawyer with Tuli & Co., solicitors and advocates.
Network 18 Media and Investments Ltd, the diversified media firm with a large web subsidiary, has insured itself. “Insurance is all about what is unforeseen. So we feel safe to be insured,” said R.D.S. Bawa, group CFO, Network18.