NDTV says on track for end-March launch

NEW DELHI: NDTV's proposed news channels in Hindi and English are slated to be launched between end-March and early April 2003, according to a senior executive of the Delhi-based production house which is soon to turn into a broadcaster too.

The senior executive of NDTV also clarified that the foreign equity component in the proposal for a news channel, cleared by the Indian government, is FII investment which was made about five years ago.

"The work on the channels (in Hindi and English) is going on fine," the senior executive of NDTV told this morning, adding, "The two channels are expected to be on-air between end-March and early-April."

According to the executive, the foreign equity of "about 16 per cent", which Swaraj was referring to, is the FII investment from the "likes of Goldman Sachs made about five years back in NDTV."

Swaraj had informed the Rajya Sabha yesterday that the government had approved the proposal of New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) to start a 24-hour news channel with a foreign equity component of 16.47 per cent, while the application of Star News Broadcasting is still under process.

Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha that while NDTV's proposal was cleared in June 2002, Star's proposal for starting a 24-hour news channel, also to be uplinked from the country, was still under process.

This is the second project by the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star that is awaiting government approval, the first being the KU-band direct-to-home (DTH) operation in the country.

The government is yet to clear the proposal to start the direct-to-home operation that was submitted in April this year.

"Star News Broadcasting has informed that its head office is in Hong Kong and registered office in British Virgin Islands. The company has three directors - two Americans and one British," Swaraj told fellow parliamentarians, adding the proposed channel would be indirectly owned by News Corporation Ltd.

She also pointed out that Jain Studios' news channel is 20 per cent foreign owned, while in Zee News foreign holding is 57.54 per cent. The latter uplinks from India from its studio on the outskirts of New Delhi.

The minister said the proposal of NDTV to start a 24-hour news channel, which will be uplinked from India, was cleared in June this year while those of Jain Studios and Zee Telefilms were cleared last year.

According to the present norms all satellite channels irrespective of their ownership, equity structure or management control are at present permitted to uplink from India.

Swaraj had earlier said that she plans to take the proposal by the Rupert Murdoch - promoted Star to start a 24-hour news channel in India for the consideration of the Union Cabinet.

The decision was taken as the ministry feels that there is a need for a greater consensus before a decision is taken on the issue.

Star had sought the government's clearance in October this year to start a new channel in the country, as its five-year contract with NDTV to generate news and current affairs content in India comes to an end on 31 March, 2003.

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