Television

ABP to partner Star on Bengali news channel

NEW DELHI: Rupert Murdoch's India visit has removed one doubt, at least. A Bengali news channel, being proposed by Media Content & Communications Services India (MCCS), will be done in association with Star Group.

 

"The Bengali news channel will be put on air along with our partner, Star, and there is no question of doing it solo," MCCS chairman of the board and ABP Group owner Aveek Sarkar told indiantelevision.com, thus scotching rumours that the Kolkata-based media house is exploring launching the Bengali

channel on its own.

MCCS is a 26:74 joint venture between the Murdoch-controlled Star Group and ABP Pvt. Ltd, publishers of newspapers like The Telegraph and Ananda Bazar Patrika.

However, according to Sarkar, the issue of branding of the proposed news channel has not been fully resolved. Asked whether the news channel would have joint branding, highlighting the participation of the two JV partners, Sarkar cryptically said, "Those issues are being looked into and no final decision has been taken yet."

 

 

According to reports emanating from the Kolkata headquarters of the ABP group, the Indian partner in MCCS had mooted an idea of co-branding the Bengali news channel on the lines of CNBC TV 18 business news channel.

Sarkar also ruled out immediate infusion of funds into the joint venture, saying that the original business plans had envisaged expansion into regional language news space.

Another issue that has not been fully ironed out is whether Ananda Bazar Patrika's wide network of bureaus and correspondents would be leveraged by the proposed Bengali channel for news coverage. It seems this issue is linked to co-branding of the product, though Sarkar evasively said, "These

matters should not be of much concern to anybody, including the partners."

Incidentally, till about 10 days ago, MCCS had not applied to the government for an uplinking licence for the Bengali channel, which could see the light of the day in the second half of 2005.

When Sarkar, who recently hosted an exclusive sit-down dinner in Delhi for Murdoch and his other colleagues to interact with the Capital's who's who, was asked about the ABP group's expansion plans, including having a Delhi edition of The Telegraph, he said "slowly things would be unveiled."



Sarkar's increasing control over Star News is indicative of the fact that the channel changed gears from a high-cost to a cost-effective style of operations from late last year, which was preceded by the exit of high profile president Ravina Raj Kohli. Bureaus were trimmed or closed, wherever necessary, and company CEO Uday Shankar has started demanding optimum use of infrastructure and manpower at Star News' disposal.

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