Star likely to announce news channel partner within 20 days

NEW DELHI: The Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star expects to make an announcement over the next 15-20 days regarding probable partner(s) for its news venture, which would have to have an Indian collaborator holding not less than 74 per cent equity stake. It would be this entity that would then apply for uplinking news content from India for Star News channel.

"We think that over the next fortnight or so we would have to make an announcement (regarding news uplinking)," Star India COO Sameer Nair told on the sidelines of a media briefing announcing here the launch of an action serial, Ak...tion Unlimited Josh, to be put on air from 16 May on Star Plus.

Though Nair was not forthcoming on any further details on the probable partner(s), it is reliably learnt by that some talks are being held in Delhi too.

Star either buys 26 per cent in an Indian company or forms a venture where Indians hold 74 per cent equity to conform to India's new uplinking policy on news channels announced in March. Under a transitory clause in the policy, Star and CNBC India had been granted 90 days time to complete restructuring as per the local laws.

Media has been abuzz with rumours as to who all can be Star's partners if it decides to collaborate with more than one partner. Recently, two business dailies had floated the name of a premier corporate house of India, the Tatas, having interest in diversified fields like hospitality, IT, telecom, cement, etc.

Interestingly, while one report said that the Tatas may pick up a minority stake of between 0-15 per cent in the uplinking company for news, the other report from Mumbai had stated that the Tatas are looking at collaborating with Star on a KU-band direct-to-home television venture.

Conflicting signals from Star has not helped the matter much. "When we finally announce the name(s), it may take everybody by surprise," another senior Star executive has said.

But what looks certain is that this time round Star would not like to wait till the nth hour to finalise things as it may put a question mark on the continuation of Star News after the 90-day deadline given by the Indian government.

After Star gets its act together, the new company would have to get various government clearances.

Industry sources also said that the Indian bourses-listed Television Eighteen Ltd. is also close to wrapping up talks for a restructuring of CNBC India wherein CNBC Asia would offload part of its 51 per cent equity stake 

in CNBC India.

The Mauritius-registered CNBC India, that oversees the working of the business channel of the same name, is a 49:51 per cent joint venture between TV Eighteen and CNBC Asia.

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