Television

Star News awaits 31 March switch-on

MUMBAI / NEW DELHI: The clock is ticking. With the uplinking issue "clarified" for the present, all systems are ready and waiting for the orders that will initiate the "seamless transition" to the new 24-hour Hindi Star News on 31 March.



The switchover to the "improved" Star News is expected at 6 am on Monday morning (31 March), according to current indications. It might be delayed by a few hours if Star takes the ceremonial route with a dignitary on hand to switch on the new Star News feed though. That is still being debated within Star, industry sources say.

This will not however, mean that the NDTV signal will be switched off. Star will be operating a dual feed till 31 March midnight.

Some of the faces that will be seen when the new Star News begins beaming

Star News would be uplinking through the Videsh Sanchar Nigam's Ltd.'s gateway in Mumbai to an Insat satellite from where it would be downlinked at Star's Hong Kong headquarters. The final product, in a digital format, would then be again uplinked to Asiasat 3 satellite for beam back into Indian and the neighbouring areas where it can be downlinked by MSOs and cable operators for further re-distribution.



It is also learnt that since most news channels generally beam through two different satellites as a cover-up measure in case a transponder or a satellite malfunctions, Star News too, would have another beam on an another satellite.

Technical people are of the opinion that the mode of uplinking that Star News would be using from 1 April for the time being may result in some minutes of time lag. That means, in case there is some breaking news or live event to be beamed viewers will see the images on Star News a few minutes after similar images of the event are seen on news channels like Aaj Tak.

For an average viewer it may not mean much. But for competition's sake this time lag can become a talking point, as it has already become with some existing news channels already referring to it and saying that "Star News' half hourly news programming format has been designed to neutralise this time lag."

STAR LAYS OUT STATE OF THE ART NEWS CENTRE

The Star News centre in Mumbai is networked via a fibre optic link to the Star News super bureau in the capital Delhi and 19 regional bureaux across India. The Star News Centre is fully digital, non-linear and server-based.



The Star News super bureau on Parliament Street in Delhi has been equipped to provide a complete back-up for the Mumbai centre, so much so that the channel can be broadcast from Delhi if required.

The bureaux are supported by 10 newsmobiles. This fleet enables reporters to transmit live via satellite from any location.

PROGRAMMING SCHEDULE

Star News has attempted to put across as wide and comprehensive a package as possible. The shows that will be on air are:

Star Savera - a morning news show that runs for four hours from 6 am - 10 am, Fridays to Saturdays. The show will also include updates on the previous night's news.

Aaj ki Baat is hosted by Rajat Sharma and airs Monday to Friday at 6:45 pm. It is Star News' first news analysis of the day. It has a second fresh airing at 11 pm on the five days and attempts an in-depth look at the day's events.

Desh Videsh airs at 7 pm daily and covers, as the name suggests, news from India and around the world.

National Reporter airs at 8 pm Monday to Friday and covers national news. The programme focusses on the political, financial and legal developments in Delhi and the state capitals.

Star Report is the 9 pm prime time daily bulletin. It has been fashioned on the lines of American prime time news formats and opts for a fast-paced delivery style.

City is the big city-focussed prime time news bulletin that airs Monday to Saturday at 10 pm. It covers Mumbai, Delhi (in particular) and the other big cities.

Kal Ki Baat airs daily at 11:30 pm and is a wrap-up of the days events while also looking ahead to the next day's likely happenings.

The weekly shows are as follows:

Vir ke Teer hosted by Vir Sanghvi airs every Sunday at 10 pm. As with the Sanghvi's Star Talk that is currently on air on Star News, it is an interview-based show. Vir ke Teer claims to offer unique insights into people and current events.

Akbar Ka Darbar hosted by celebrated political commentator MJ Akbar airs Sundays at 8 pm and goes "inside politics". The one-hour weekly show also features special appearances by other opinion makers.

The other weekly shows are Focus Asia (8 pm Saturday), Yeh Saat Din (11 pm Saturday), Sports Reporter (9:30 am Sunday), Business Reporter (8:30 pm Saturday) and Masand Ki Pasand (10:30 am Sunday).

'AD RATES ON HIGHER SIDE'

The advertising industry feels that the rate card unveiled by Star for its news channel is "on the higher side."

A media planner on condition of anonymity, admitted: "The rate card (of Star News) is extremely high and the whole attempt is to link the rates with that of the other network channels."



Pointing out that even Star knows that very few would follow the rate card or do business according to it, the media planner said that the fixed programme rates work out to Rs 122,400 per 30 seconds, while RODP (run on day parts) rates work out to around Rs 76,500 per 30 seconds between 8-11 pm.

The media planner went on to add that recently a volume deal was done for Star News for an existing client where the rates worked out to between Rs 6,000-8,000 per 10 seconds.

Another cautious media head of an international advertising agency said he had not had a first hand look at Star News' rate card, but from what he has heard, "the rates seem to be on the higher side."

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