Balarama Digest, Book 5, Issue 2, November 22, 2003
If you think free publicity, like 'free lunch', is a no-no in this newly liberalised world of ours, you have got it all wrong. Take a dekko at this: A children's magazine from one of the most popular media stables in the country has devoted a full issue to "educate" kids about the two soft drink giants and their history (sans their bad deeds!), much to the chagrin of mothers trying to wean their children off the "cola habit".
The November 22 issue of Balarama Digest , a popular Malayalam children's weekly, has became a "willing partner" in the cola firms' no-holds-barred campaign to ricochet into young Indian hearts. The magazine painstakingly attempts to paint the advent of Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola as important inventions, as great as that of electronics or automobiles. The recent controversy over pesticide residues in soft drinks and many other public safety concerns (for instance: the key ingredient, phosphoric acid, dissolves teeth in flat two days) raised against them receive only a passing mention in the magazine that is a 52-page eulogy. It is another matter that the companies are yet to get a clean chit from the Joint Parliamentary Committee (jpc) and the courts on the pesticide residues issue.
Perhaps such flagrant appropriation of editorial space, or the brazen flouting of journalistic ethics is no surprise at all, considering it comes from a media group whose flagship newspaper had preferred to carry an editorial on the locust menace when, in 1975, all dailies worth their name across the country went to town with hard-hitting pieces on the Emergency.