Rajat Sharma, Star News to part ways; Vinod Dua on board

NEW DELHI: Well, the separation has been made official. Star newsperson Rajat Sharma would go off Star News from October-November; and the top-rated Aaj Ki Baat, which he along with Sudha used to anchor, would sport another host.

If Sharma goes off Star News, another celebrated TV personality, Vinod Dua, comes on air with a special election-related package being branded Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri (KBM). Five states of India, including Delhi, are going to polls towards the end of this year.

Confirming the news to today, Star News president Ravina Raj Kohli said: "Rajat's contract would come to a natural end by October-end. Vinod has already started making appearances on the election related special package as a guest anchor."

According to Kohli --- who spoke today to indiantelevision for a free-wheeling interview on the Star News channel's future plans and the existing controversy regarding uplinking --- with the type of budget that she has, Star News "cannot afford" to outsource news bulletins.

"I am not saying we are stopping outsourcing (of current affairs programmes) altogether, but with the type of budget that I have, Star News might as well produce Aaj Ki Baat type bulletins in-house now."

When contacted by, Sharma refused to comment on the issue. But the industry buzz is that the man, who along with Subhash Chandra, set up the whole news operations of Zee (later hived off as a separate channel) in the mid-90s, is slated to come out with his very own news and current affairs channel later this year, or early next year. Sharma did not comment on this too.

Though Sharma would no more be seen on Star News from later this year, Aaj Ki Baat as a programme would continue to be on air as Star has the right over the brand name, Kohli said. Star News' news director Sanjay Pugalia, who has started making appearances on telly, is tipped to host Aaj Ki Baat after Sharma's exit from the show.

Sharma's exit from Zee had been acrimonious at a time when Chandra took on Rupert Murdoch and bought out his shareholding in three joint ventures, including Siti Cable in a cash-and-stock deal worth about $ 300 million some years back.

After leaving Zee, Sharma had started a format of his now-famous Adalat programme on Star Plus and later came up with Aaj Ki Baat, a news show that was shifted from Star Plus to Star News when the former decided to turn a complete entertainment channel.

Meanwhile, Dua would be involved with Star News for election-related programming, which is being marketed aggressively by Star News under the brand name KBM that does sound similar to the super-duper successful Kaun Banega Crorepati of Star Plus.

"We are airing special (weekly) packages of 30-minute duration of Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri at the moment, but as time goes by and elections draws near, the programme would be ramped up to be a daily show," Kohli said.

Till sometime back, Dua was the advisor to the news channels project of the Subroto Roy-promoted Sahara group. He quit citing reasons of "redundancy" at Sahara. Along with NDTV's Prannoy Roy, Dua in the late 1980s spun sheer visual magic on air on India's national broadcaster Doordarshan as a team in programmes related to elections and the annual Budget.

Asked whether Dua's involvement with Star News would continue even after the state elections till the slated general elections in 2004, Kohli said it was an issue that has not yet been looked into.

"We may continue with Vinod, we may not. That aspect is still being looked into. Anyway, Vinod is a professional with whom we would like to keep the association going," Kohli said.

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