Official denies Tara set to shut shop

When regional language channels Prabhat (Marathi) and Suprabhat (Kannada) shut down transmission recently no one was surprised. That it was facing severe financial problems was well known and the owner admitting that there was no place for so many channels in the regional market only confirmed what was an open secret in the industry.

Now that the official seal has been put on the two regional language channels the spotlight has turned to another regional channel bouquet - Broadcast Worldwide, which runs four regional channels under the brand name Tara.

For the last six months, one regularly has heard the buzz of a complete sellout. But in spite of this the management, led by promoter (and former Star TV head honcho) R. Basu, has managed to stay alive and ticking. Director business development Pradipto Sircar is quite categorical that Broadcast Worldwide is not shutting down any time soon. "I have also been hearing these rumours for quite a long time. Yes there have been problems in the last six months. But when the market itself is going down then everyone is facing the same conditions," says Sircar.

And what of the reports that the Delhi and Ahmedabad offices have been closed down and that employees have not been given salaries for the last few months? "All our offices are functioning well," Sircar says. "We have rationalised the size of our staff. There was no problem as far as salaries are concerned. Yes, there were some problems in case of payments to production people. Most of them were on contract. But now we have resolved it."

On the programming front, he rejects the contention that there is nothing on the channels except reruns. "We are going for new programming. And the deal with Vicco Laboratories (reportedly called off) is very much on," he says. "We are showing programmes from their library," Sirkar says. The Vicco library has close to 17 Marathi serials, most of which were aired on national broadcaster DD a few years back.

But the real clincher appears to be reports from internal sources that Mauritius-based Crombie International Ltd, which Basu had said in May was pumping in $ 800,000 in exchange for 72,500 equity shares of Broadcast Worldwide, never made good on the payment

When asked what happened to the Crombie investment Sircar says the company has already invested close to the full $800,000. "It was part of an old agreed amount that they have invested," he says. Queried as to how the funds had been allocated, he says that the amount will be used for core function of programming and marketing. "Looking at the market conditions we have to strictly follow the return on investment criteria as returns have depleted to a great extent." He admitted that there was increasing competition from the other regional channels, which made things difficult.

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