Television

Bangladesh's Ekushey TV faces closure over allegation of irregular licensing

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Bangladesh's first private television channel and only independent station Ekushey Television, better known as ETV, is teetering on the brink of closure.

On a charge made by individuals supporting the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party that the station did not win its license fairly during the regime of the earlier government, the court has granted it a five week reprieve to make a last ditch appeal. If ETV fails to convince the court that the license was not obtained unfairly during the Awami League's rule, the channel may well have to shut shop, leaving several hundred employees in the lurch. 

The legal action that has lasted several months, resulted in the Supreme Court rejecting ETV's leave to appeal petition and upholding the high court division verdict issued on 27 March that the licensing agreement between the government and ETV was illegal. The plaintiffs had said that ETV failed to fill in the correct documentation at the time of getting its permit ahead of rival bids and had secured its license by assuring favours to those in power at the time.

Three years ago, the channel commenced broadcast as both a terrestrial and a satellite channel. In 2000, a petition was filed against it by members sympathetic to the governing coalition led by the BNP. It questioned the manner in which ETV topped the list of parties when international bids were invited for setting up a private television channel in the country in 1998. 

Lawyers for the station, which is backed by the American banking firm Citicorp, have argued that if the licensing process is found to be defective, it can be replaced by another. Citicorp has invested over 100 million Tk in the venture.


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