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
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