Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The insider story of the challenges and how the former ANN7 editor Rajesh Sundaram struggled to write his book, Indentured - Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV, in 2014 and finally got it published in 2018.

Just like Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury about the chaotic Donald Trump White House, Rajesh Sundaram's must-read book Indentured: Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV is a real page-turner as the Indian author gives an eye-popping account, filled with shockers, about his time spent as editor behind-the-scenes before and during the launch of the controversial ANN7 (DStv 405) channel.

But how did Indentured: Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV, published by Jacana Media, came to be? And why now, when Rajesh Sundaram already said over four years ago that he was writing Indentured in 2013 and hoped to have it on bookshelves by Christmas 2013?

Why the long wait? 

TVwithThinus followed the story about the book, about ANN7, ever since Rajesh Sundaram first revealed that he's putting pen to paper about the channel started by the controversial Gupta family, involved in widespread State Capture allegations.

In his book he reveals how ANN7 was rushed to air on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform although MultiChoice was considered with paranoia as "our enemies", how ANN7 blatantly lied to MultiChoice, how the ANN7 launch became the disaster he realised it would be, and how the shocking on-air mistakes led to the resulting disastrous and reputation destroying consequences.

Rajesh Sundaram details it all in a breath-taking way in his can't-put-down, tell-all of 164 pages.

But lets roll back the clock a few years. The publisher Jacana Media was doing the book, then it was dropped for some reason, and was then revived - published in mid-March and now retailing for R185.

The book is a fascinating addition to the bookshelf of anybody interested in the inner workings of television, TV news, TV news channels, and the wheeling and dealings of South Africa's Gupta family.

"Indentured: Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV was written in 2014 and it was decided, after legal concerns were raised and evaluating those concerns, not to push for publication at the time," Nadia Goetham, publisher and production manager at Jacana Media tells TVwithThinus.

"Jacana Media revisited the book at various stages in the last four years, especially as more information about the former president's [Jacob Zuma] involvement with the Gupta family and what then later became known as 'State Capture', came to light," she says.

"We kept hitting a brick wall with the legal issues until late last year when the Gupta email leaks looked like a perfect way to publish the author’s account of what had transpired at ANN7 while he was setting up the news channel."

Asked why Jacana decided to published now, and why this type of book, Nadia Goetham explains that "Rajesh Sundaram's story made headlines when he was intimidated and feared for his life while working to set up ANN7".

"His queries around certain issues pertaining to employee working conditions, visa irregularities, the close involvement of the Zuma family with the TV station's editorial policy and other operational issues made him very unpopular with the Guptas."

"He feared for his life and chose to go to the media – at the time City Press – to tell his story in order to not only expose the truth of what he was witnessing at ANN7, but also in a bid to keep himself safe from harm. This and various other factors contained in the book make for a fascinating first-person account by an insider at the time."

"At the time of him writing the book, in 2014, he was the only one willing to open the can of worms related to the Zuma-Gupta links, which would later reveal itself to be the machinery of state capture."

Asked about what was maybe one or two issues around the book making it difficult to publish, Nadia Goetham explains that the potential legal issues were the biggest.

"The legal ramifications, even though an honest account from the author, were potentially huge – not only for the author but also for Jacana Media. We pride ourselves on being a brave publisher but sometimes discretion has to be the better part of valour."

"Rajesh, back in India after his brief stint with ANN7 and literally fleeing to safety, wrote the book in four short months. He managed to produce a book filled with immediacy, even though we have been able to only publish it a few years after the events happened."

"More recent news articles suggest that Rajesh’s revelations in Indentured will be instrumental in investigating some of the claims related to the SABC's archival footage being sold to ANN7 for far less than what it is worth," says Nadia Goetham.

Indentured: Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV and published by Jacana Media is now on sale for R185.
MultiChoice is dumping ANN7, now owned by Mzwanele Manyi, from its DStv platform in August.