Television

We aim to spread entertainment through all avenues: Rupert Murdoch

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Rupert Murdoch Chairman of News Corp, the parent company of Hong Kong-based Star TV, was in India on five-day visit last week.Considering the hype he generated in the three cities that he visited --- India‘s Silicon Valley, Banaglore, Mumbai and Delhi--- one can safely assume that the legal and governmental problems being faced by him and his companies are things of the past. The Prime Minister of India, Atal B. Vajpayee, spent over an hour and 45 minutes at a party thrown in the capital by Star TV, and attended by Murdoch, to celebrate seven years of the longest running chat show on Indian satellite TV, Rajat Sharma‘s `Adalat‘.



Murdoch is bullish on various aspects of convergence--- Internet, broadcasting and telephony. And he wants to have a share of the convergence pie in India. "I am amazed at the (technological) advances made (by India) since my last visit (about four years back)," he told a gathering of political, corporate, entertainment and journalistic who‘s who in Delhi.



News Corporation has total assets as of 31 December 1999 of approximately US$39 billion and total annual revenues of approximately US$14 billion. The media group‘s diversified global operations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Basin include the production and distribution of motion pictures and television programming; television, satellite and cable broadcasting; the publication of newspapers, magazines, books; the production and distribution of promotional and advertising products and services; the development of digital broadcasting; the development of conditional access and subscriber management systems; and the creation and distribution of popular on-line programming.



An excerpt from conversations that indiantelevision.com and The Indian Cab&Sat Reporter‘s Delhi correspondent Anju Mahindra had with Rupert Murdoch while he was waiting for the Prime Minister to arrive at the Delhi party and in a lift after he had finished his meeting with the information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley.





*ON HIS VIEWS ON INDIA AS A BUSINESS DESTINATION.



I am optimistic on various things in India. Specially the boom in the information technology that I saw in Bangalore...there‘s great potential for investments here. Though there are certain glitches, but I think India a great destination for investments (in the IT sector).

*ON HIS MEETINGS WITH VARIOUS GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, MINISTERS AND CORPORATE LEADERS LIKE THE AMBANIS, TATAS AND SUBHASH CHANDRA



They were more or less private visits. We held some exploratory talks and discussed the state of technology in the world and India. Especially what technology can do for India. For example, help in distance learning. Some people made some presentations in Bangalore (Pradeep Kar of Microland was one), but nothing has been finalised yet. With Mr. Jaitley and Mr. Mahajan, the discussions were very general. No, there were no assurances given. (But Star sources have indicated with the Ambanis and Tatas there was an amount of seriousness. "The Ambanis are in telecom and not in broadcasting, while News Corp is in broadcasting and has contents, but has no telecom interests. At some later stage, these two interests of the two companies can converge to take form of a business alliance," a Star source said.)







*ON HIS INVESTMENTS PLANS IN INDIA.



We are looking at investing in the information technology (sector and companies). We have decided to take a small stake in a Bangalore company. Others will be finalised later. These investments would be done through Star TV, apart from eVentures India Ltd... it‘s a separate thing. Star would be investing directly... in broadband services in India. May be a couple of hundreds of million (dollars). I am not sure about the figure...it can be more than that too over the next few years. There would be some investments in broadcasting and entertainment (business) too.

*ON KU-BAND DIRECT-TO-HOME TELEVISION SERVICE.



I guess the (Indian) government is looking at it. Mr Jaitley told me a group of ministers is studying the issue. DTH has its advantages. Everywhere you cannot lay the fiber optics. Places where you cannot lay the cable, DTH can be useful to disseminate a host of information from education to entertainment.

*ON WHETHER NEWS CORP IS CHANGING ITSELF TO BECOME AN E-COMPANY FROM JUST BEING AN ENTERTAINMENT AND BROADCASTING COMPANY.



Things are converging together and we have to be ready for that. Entertainment will always be a focal point. (We have to) take advantage of convergence. Our aim will be to spread entertainment through all the avenues available (because of technological convergence).



*ON WHETHER NEWS CORP‘S FOCUS IS BACK ON INDIA AS CHINESE-BORN AMERICAN GARETH CHANG‘S RESIGNATION INDICATES OF STAR FAILURE‘S TO PENETRATE THE CHINESE MARKET EFFECTIVELY.



We have loads of content today. We are looking at alliances, acquisitions, and partnerships with various companies. We will also take equity positions in some firms that we have to.





*ON THE REPORTED RESTRUCUTURING OF NEWS CORP WHERE THE BROADCAST AND SATELLITE ENTITIES ARE TO BE BROUGHT UNDER ONE UMBRELLA COMPANY WHICH WILL GO PUBLIC.



We are studying it (the restructuring). There‘s no time frame. (As a consequence of speculative press reports, News Corporation on February 14 issued the following statement in New York: "We have under serious consideration plans to consolidate our worldwide satellite platforms and certain related assets under one umbrella entity. It is premature to speculate on the final format of this umbrella entity, the makeup of its assets, the identity of its investors or whether the entity will be a public company.")

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