The extensive print media coverage of the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the gas pricing dispute between the Ambani brothers turned up few surprises, with all of it unanimous in calling the verdict a win for older brother Mukesh and his Reliance Industries Ltd.
Business papers as well as general dailies gave front page space to the corporate battle, the verdict and its implications. The ‘Hindustan Times’ headline said “Big Win for Big Brother,” adding “Supreme Court rules in favour of Mukesh, says price fixed by government final.” The paper is published by HT Media Ltd, which owns Mint.
‘The Times of India’ also played up Mukesh Ambani’s victory: “Mukesh Wins a Big One,” the paper said. The headline in sister publication ‘The Economic Times’ said: “Anil Ambani’s Got a Gas Problem”. The copy talked about “putting the profitability of many power plants of the younger sibling under threat…”
The paper carried an interview with petroleum minister Murli Deora who said the government stand has been vindicated that “these (oil and natural gas) are sovereign assets. The gas belongs to the nation and people…not to any company or individual.”
In the ‘Business Standard’, RIL director and business head of the petroleum business P.M.S. Prasad discussed the judgement’s fine print and explained what the two companies were likely to renegotiate. “We will look at the gas sale and purchase agreement,” Prasad told the paper. “There may be clauses other than price, tenure and quantity that may need to be renegotiated.”
The Indian Express’ said the ruling was a “big setback for the Anil Ambani group, which was banking on KG (Krishna-Godavari) gas at a cheaper price for its power projects, including the 3,500MW power plant at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh.” ’The Financial Express’, a sister publication of ‘The Indian Express’, referred to the gas row as “war.” “Government supreme as RIL wins Ambani war,” it stated.
The Reliance story overshadowed an international development, a historic hung parliament in Britain. ‘The Hindu’ played up the news, confining the gas spat to a single column on the front page.
The largest read Hindi newspaper, ‘Dainik Jagran’, from Jagran Prakashan Ltd, put its coverage of the verdict above the fold on Page 1. The ‘Dainik Jagran’ has the country’s largest number of readers, according to the Indian Readership Survey produced by Media Research Users’ Council.