West Bengal's plan to take over defunct TV channels may face central ire

West Bengal's plan to take over defunct TV channels may face central ire


NEW DELHI: Even as the telecom regulatory authority of India (Trai) has in two reports in the last five years rejected the idea of television channels being run by state governments, West Bengal plans to acquire two closed television channels – Tara News and Tara Muzik, owned by the Sudipta Sen promoted Saradha group.

The group had run into financial crisis recently, leaving hundreds of employees jobless.

"We have decided to acquire Tara Muzik and Tara News on humanitarian grounds," West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said today.

Earlier, Punjab had approached the information and broadcasting ministry to get into broadcasting business but was turned down, and now the case of Arasu supported by the Tamil Nadu government is unlikely to get the nod of the central government for digital access system (DAS) license.

In any case, the matter relating to the Saradha owned channels is sub judice as the investigation is on and the matter is in court.

The government had also decided to pay an ex-gratia of Rs 16,000 to each of the 168 employees of the two channels for the month of May.

A sum of Rs 26 lakh would be given by Banerjee from the sale proceeds of her paintings to the two channels.

However, she was categorical that the government would not take the liability of the channels which amounted to Rs 6 crore.

The two Bengali channels were bought by the Saradha Group in early 2011. However, the management served closure notices on 15 April. The channels remained on air even after 15 April as employees refused to accept the closure notice.

Trinamool Congress member of parliament Mukul Roy, who is close to Banerjee, had earlier made promises to the employees about assistance from the government.

Banerjee had recently said it was the "teary eyes" of Tara Muzik employees on the day of Bengali New Year (15 April) that made her aware about the financial difficulties of the Saradha owned channels. "After seeing this, I asked Mukul to enquire about the matter. Subsequently, I came to know about Saradha going bust," Banerjee recently said at a public rally.

Among other major media outfits of Saradha, Channel 10, which is also a Bengali news channel, is still on air. Two of its news publications -- Azad Hind (Urdu) and Kalam (Bengali) are also in circulation. Sources suggest in all these organisations, a section of the employees are running the show forming associations with outside support from TMC. On the other hand, Saradha owned English daily Bengal Post and Bengali newspaper Sakalbela are out of circulation.

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