Supplementary application on Star News to be filed Tuesday

NEW DELHI: Even as the government today said it is examining a proposal involving Star News submitted last Friday, the company that would be the content provider for Star News channel, pending various okays, is called Media Content & Communication India Pvt Ltd (MCCIPL).


An information and broadcasting ministry official today said that the proposal for Star News is being examined by the relevant departments before a decision can be taken on it and insisted the application had arrived "late". The 90-day grace period given to the likes of Star News and CNBC India to restructure as per the current uplinking policy expires on 26 June.

Though it is not clear whether the government has already shot off a missive seeking clarifications, the official did admit that the application needs some more financial clarity. In a related development, learns that MCCIPL is likely to file a supplementary application tomorrow that would enlist details about the shareholders of the company.

This move has got necessitated as the Indian government came out with a new uplinking policy late March that foreign holding in all news channel desirous of uplinking from India would be capped at 26 per cent. Since Star News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, was an on-air channel like CNBC India in which foreign shareholding was there, a transitory arrangement was also announced by the government. Under this arrangement content providers/channels who are currently using VSAT/roof top transmission system/satellite video phone and similar infrastructure, which lends itself for use for uplinking/point-to-point transfer of content for broadcast purpose, will be allowed a maximum period of three months to come within framework of these guidelines.

A point of dispute that has arisen now involves the 90-day period and whether it implies permissions have to be obtained within the deadline or just sought. If the government is to be believed, the rule means that permission formalities have to be completed within 90 days, while the company feels that it means seeking permission within the stipulated period.

"It is up to the government now to take a stand as we have filed for permission within the deadline (expiring three days from now on 26 June)," a source close to the new company told today.

Meanwhile, the authorised capital of MCCIPL is Rs 50 million, while the paid up capital of the company is said to be Rs 100,000. A sum of Rs 40 million has already been termed as 'committed'.

While Kumarmangalam Birla in his personal capacity holds 25 per cent stake in MCCIPL, a similar shareholding is with Hemendra Kothari of DSP Merrill Lynch, which had been mandated by Star to structure an entity as per rules and regulations. Apart from Star, which has 26 per cent equity stake in the company, the other shareholders include Hindustan Times editor Vir Sanghvi (5 per cent), ad man Suhel Seth (5 per cent), Balaji Telefilms head Jeetendra (5 per cent), former head of Britannia Sunil Alagh's wife, Maya (5 per cent) and Star Group legal advisor Rian Karanjiwala (4 per cent).

It is also learnt that all those who work for Star News channels, including its president Ravina Raj Kohli, news director Sanjay Pugalia and other editorial staff will be formally transferred to MCCIPL as and when it gets the green signals. The board of directors for the company includes Kaushal Dalal (in charge of business development for Star India), Kohli, Pugalia, Seth, Shanti Ram (said to be representing Kothari) and Gopi Kumar Tulsian (Birla's representative).

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