Television

India TV allegations on 'KBC 2': Star threatens to sue

MUMBAI: Star India has hit out strongly at India TV over a report in the Hindi news channel that puts in doubt the selection process of the Amitabh Bachchan-hosted gameshow KBC 2 on Star Plus.

Star India asserts the allegations are an attempt "to defame the gameshow property" and has threatened to take "strong action, using whatever means available to us under the law of the land."

"Certain sections of the media have attempted to defame KBC 2 and the Star network by deliberately creating an atmosphere of innuendo and hype. These stories, based upon incomplete information and misinterpretation of facts, are but an attempt to stir up public frenzy," a statement issued by the broadcast network avers.

In the statement, Star India COO Sameer Nair has hinted at the possibility of his network filing a defamation suit against India TV. "Frivolous accusations of this nature have created an environment of malicious innuendo. We will be taking strong action, using whatever means available to us under the law of the land, against such deliberate defamation and slander against KBC 2 and the Star Network. It is a clear case of sensational journalism by trying to stir up public frenzy on hype rather than facts," Nair is quoted as saying.

When contacted by indiantelevision.com for further details, Nair refused to offer anything more on the matter saying, "The release issued by Star says all what we want to say."

In a news report telecast yesterday (26 January), India TV had alleged that Bachchan was not doing further episodes of KBC 2 due to irregularities in the selection process. The report also alleged that a few people had managed to get into Fastest Finger First round (round of 10) twice and a few BSNL/ MTNL employees had managed to get into Fastest Finger First round.

Star has made a point by point rebuttal of the charges. Says Nair, "We have always maintained that Bachchan's health is of paramount importance. After Bachchan expressed his inability to shoot for the next couple of months on medical advice, we have taken the decision to end this season of KBC. We are also contemplating the modalities of returning with the third season of KBC after taking this break. Claiming that Bachchan is distancing himself from the show due to alleged irregularities in the selection process is trying to put weight into a story that is baseless."

On the issues raised in regard to the Fastest Finger First round, Nair had this to say: "The rules allow for contestants to come to the round of Fastest Finger First (round of 10) more than once. Only if the participant has made it to Hot Seat (which means the winner of Fastest Finger First round) is he disqualified from subsequent participation in the competition."

India TV CEO Chintamani Rao, however, counters, "The rules may well permit a contestant to come up to the round of 10 more than once, but that is not the point at issue in our story. It is simply a matter of mathematical (im)probability. As the numbers get funnelled down from up to 25 lakh (2.5 million) to 500 to 100 to 10, with a combination of skill, quotas and random selection at each stage, the probability of one person making it twice is near zero. When that happens 5 times in a span of three months, ordinary viewers wonder…”

On the charge that Star violated KBC rules by permitting employees of the gameshow service providers BSNL & MTNL to participate, Nair insists BSNL/ MTNL are national telephony service providers and not restricted entities as per the rules.

Rao refuses to buy that line of reasoning though. The India TV CEO says, "The question is simply whether Star TV makes money out of these phone calls. If Star TV has a revenue sharing arrangement with them, as broadcasters and telecom companies usually do, then they must be restricted entities, in the spirit of fair competition.

Asked to respond to Star's assertion that the allegations brought forth by India TV were frivolous in nature, Rao says, "What is frivolous is a subjective question. To a large multinational broadcaster like Star this may well be a frivolous matter. To crores (tens of millions) of Indians who have believed in KBC and especially to those who have spent their time, money and emotions, chasing a dream, it is not. Since the story broke our phone lines have been jammed and we have received thousands of email and sms messages from viewers expressing their anguish. In our daily India Poll 99 per cent of respondents want a refund. The rest want to let it be because of their love and respect for Amitabh Bachchan."

Point and counterpoint. Ultimately it could well be the courts that decide who is the villain and who the victim in this episode.

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