Times examining feasibility of launching two channels - business news and entertainment

MUMBAI: The next big media player to enter the television broadcast space may well be the country's most influential press publication, The Times of India Group.

Times Group managing director Vineet Jain, in an interview today to CNBC TV 18, said his company was seriously examining the feasibility of launching two TV channels - a news channel and an entertainment channel.

When pressed to give a timeline, Jain said that if at all the group did decide to enter television, the earliest it would happen was some time in 2004. 

In the course of the interview Jain repeated a demand made earlier by the Indian Media Group --- the new "swadeshi" front comprising leading media personalities including many publishers and broadcasters --- for a regulatory body for the publishing and broadcasting industry.

The Times Group has been at the forefront of the campaign demanding "proper" scrutiny of papers submitted to the government regarding ownership and control of Star News and, by extension, Media Content & Communications Services India Pvt. Ltd (MCCS), the company that has applied for uplinking.

"The law should be solid both legally as well as in spirit," Jain said in reference to foreign media companies (read Star) operating in India.

Coming back to the channels, according to the information available with, the news channel will be a business channel rather than a general news channel. The idea is to leverage the Economic Times brand in marketing the news channel.

That the Times is interested in a general entertainment channel is news to and how such a channel would be positioned is unclear.

As far as the business channel is concerned, when the Times launches, it will have to contend with two players in that space - CNBC TV 18 and the still-waiting-to-launch Zee Biz.

The Zee Group business news channel is planned to be in both Hindi and English, with a focus on stock markets and live coverage of business events.

Zee Biz, which had initially targeted a mid-year launch, is still awaiting uplinking clearance. The okay is reportedly being held up as the government wants some changes made in Zee's equity structure before giving the all-clear.

Meanwhile on the entertainment front, former Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief Vijay Anand is also set to foray into the television field by launching a Hindi entertainment channel 'Lamhas', which means 'Moments'. Anand plans to launch the channel in January.

Additionally, there are two other media companies that are talking about launching new channels.

Nimbus Communications Ltd executive chairman Harish Thawani told recently that within three to six months of the CAS launch he would take a call on whether to launch the long on the drawing board Showbiz TV. "We could actually launch in about 12 weeks time by just going into the commissioning of the programming that we need to. Because the FPCs, the distribution, the engineering, the channel design, all that is ready," Thawani had said.

UTV promoter Ronnie Screwvala had told in a recent interview that his company is looking at launching a kids channel. "The space of kids and children is something we have understood in the past, we've tracked it to a mini extent, and that's where we really want to grow," Screwvala said.

"Diwali 2004 is when we want to start kindling it. Once we really have our plans in place it won't take more than three to six months after that to kickstart the channel," Screwvala added.

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