is the new programming lineup for Star News?
have recently introduced a rural India based programme Mera Gaon
Mera Desh (MGMD), produced by BAG Films. The initial feedback
of this show has been quite good.
are also starting a (state) election-related package under the brand
name Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri (whoíll become the chief minister)
or KBM. It will be guest anchored by Vinod Dua.
the moment, we plan to make KBM a weekly 30-minutes show,
but as the elections draw near, it would be ramped up to cover a
are also planning on programme that would view the hits and misses
of the print medium without actually commenting on these.
Aaj Ki Baat would now have a new anchor and be produced in-house
by Star. Rajat Sharmaís contract for the show comes to a end around
late October. But weíd continue to have the programme, as the brand
name belongs to us.
terminating Rajat Sharmaís contract, it seems that Star News is
cutting down on outsourcing of programmes?
No, we would continue to outsource programmes, the logistics
of which we think we can't handle. One example is MGMD. The
show needs a wide network of people in the country, including in
the rural areas. The crime show Red Alert, is another example.
yes, with the type of budget we have, Star News cannot afford to
outsource news shows like Aaj Ki Baat.
are constantly getting feedback on what viewers would like to
watch. We are in the process of commissioning a study to get
into viewer preferences"
outsourcing mean handing out lucrative contracts to people you want
to oblige? Is MGMD is a good example of that?
We have not obliged anybody. When MGMD was conceptualised
some months ago, we debated a lot on whether it should be produced
in-house, outsourced, or be a joint production.
we started checking for production houses having a wide network.
Sharmaís company certainly had a network, but then he was already
doing a show for us. Then, we zeroed down on BAG Films because not
only does it have the required network, but has also done similar
programmes for Doordarshan.
without any of these justifications, donít I have the right to choose
the production house I want, being the head of a channel? I would
also like to point out, that Star Newsí involvement is very much
there in MGMD -- the anchor is ours and we go through the
scripts, etc, very diligently. It
would be wrong to assume that we chose BAG Films for any other reason.
Star News have a particular programming strategy?
We do have a programming strategy, but no agenda. The strategy
that I am referring to is to build up programmes as brands, more
than the people.
channel has its own brand character and at Star News we are building
up brands like National Reporter, City 60 and even
KBM. KBM is a political programme, but would unfurl
more variety and panache, as time goes by.
isnít it true that viewers watch news channels for its anchors?
CNN has its Larry King, BBC World its Tim Sebastian and NDTV 24X7
its Prannoy Roy. What about building people as brands at Star News?
I agree with you to an extent. But people become brands only
with time. You must not forget that Star News, in its new avatar,
is a fledgling channel.
a lot of people who are stars in the Indian media are so because
of the promotional power of Star. Even in the early days, our anchors
like Aparna, Ajay and Sidhartha are quite popular. Anyway, I strongly
believe that a channel is always bigger than the people it has.
Since you mentioned Starís promotional powers, isnít the popularity
of the news channel mostly because of the aggressive distribution
and marketing of Star?
We are certainly grateful for that. The cross-promotions on
Star channels and the companyís aggressive distribution have helped
us a lot. I feel that Starís brand power has rubbed onto the channel
too. We have had a great beginning, but now is the time to consolidate.
We have zoomed to the number two spot and the effort now should
be to sustain the good work.
Isn't the initial push given by Star 'plateauing' off? You seem
to be content at the number two slot...
We are number two in terms of market share and TRPs (among
news channels). Thatís fine by us; actually the position doesnít
matter much. I have no qualms in saying that the leader (Aaj Tak)
is way ahead, but what matters more to us is the reach and the popularity
of the channel.
I donít think there is any 'plateauing' taking effect. Itís a period
of selling down and all this number one, number two talks are in
the minds of media persons. For us, itís a consolidation mode.
about the controversy that has been following Star News from the
time it split from NDTV?
I think we are the only news channel that is making news. But
on a serious note, the new guidelines (for uplinking) have been
issued and we'll conform to the regulations.
That's reassuring for the Indian government. Would there be drastic
changes in the shareholding pattern of MCCS?
I cannot exactly comment on it yet, but yes, there would be
changes. Our lawyers are studying the revised norms and various
options are being explored right now. However, I am of the view
that to form such a big joint venture, four weeks' time is a bit
to the new uplinking norms for news channels, the applicant company
should have at least 51 per cent equity held by a single Indian
entity, either singly or in the form of a group of companies, amongst
other riders. It would have to comply to this before 28 September.)
there a possibility that Suhel Seth, who at present holds 30 per
cent stake in MCCS, will hike his shareholding to 51 per cent?
I donít know the answer to that yet. Various options are being
you feel that the Indian government in targeting Star News because
of vested interests?
I would not say that. Every government has the right to form
guidelines. But there was no need for the controversy in the first
the president of Star News, I can vouch for the fact that I
run the company. The real power lies with Indians who are professionals
and have the national interest in their minds and hearts"
controversy started because of the proxy control that Star -- the
foreign shareholder in MCCS -- was wielding through shell and backend
companies. What do you have to say about that?
First of all, there is no shell company and whatever corporate
structure had been done was as per international practices. As the
president of the company, I can vouch for the fact that I run the
company. The real power lies with Indians who are professionals
and have the national interest in their minds and hearts. We have
never been told by anyone, including Star, what to do or what not
that mean, the umbrella organisation IMG was daydreaming about Star
News flouting rules and, thus, needed a level playing field?
The sequence of events reassure us that we have made an impact
on competition. What you call the domestic mediaís call for level
playing field, I see as broadcasters who have got rattled by us.
It has made us realise the impact that we have had.
way, we as a team, came together during the coverage of Mumbai bomb
blast or the Nasik Kumbh Mela stampede, amongst others, was very
satisfactory. Our editorial policy of 'Aap ko rakhe aageí
was bang on target for a channel that cares about people.
would you say is the need of the hour in the industry?
More collaborations amongst the players, especially where coverage
of big and planned events -- that cannot be termed as breaking news
-- are concerned. Only in India, we duplicate the resources for
covering separately an event that is big, but not exclusive.
do we have to do that? Abroad, there is this practice of sharing
resources and also information and footages. Why cannot that be
replicated here too, which will result in huge financial savings.
there is this practice of sharing resources and even information.
Why cannot that be replicated here too, which will result in
Star News dared to take a lead in such collaborative ventures?
Yes, we did that with Sahara recently for an exclusive Leander
Paes interview from the US. We commissioned the interview abroad
and later split the cost. The
interview was run on both the channels (Sahara Rashtriya and Star
News) simultaneously with each giving credit to the other on their
are actively looking at more such collaborations professionally.
We need to pool our resources for big events as an industry and
then develop it further.
Star News also bang on target with the business plan, considering
advertising is now being split amongst many seekers?
I inherited a business plan and I am sticking to it. The advertising
has been good so far.
Do you see a shakeup in the news channel segment in another year's
time with some channels downing shutters?
Not really. Thereís enough scope for growth and I donít foresee
a shakeout in the near future. Healthy competition is best for the
Time to consolidate gains:
Star News president Ravina Raj Kohli
Rajat Sharma, Star News
to part ways; Vinod Dua on board