Zee 24 Gantalu faces acid test

MUMBAI: Change is in the air at Zee Media Corp Ltd's (ZMCL) Telugu news channel Zee 24 Gantalu. Reason: the management has decided to restructure the straggler in the ZMCL portfolio, which has been buffeted by competition in the hyper-news state of Andhra Pradesh.

ZMCL had set up Zee 24 Gantalu in a 50:50 association with a local politician Satyanarayanan Botsa, whose brother Sateesh Botsa ran the channel.

"It is not viable for us to run it in its current state. We have invested heavily in Zee 24 Gantalu and have tried many different strategies to make it work. But it has been losing a lot of money," says ZMCL CEO Alok Agrawal. "We are currently reevaluating the options before us."

Among the options before it is shutting down the channel. But Agrawal says no decision has been taken in this direction. "We will know clearly in a couple of weeks what we will do," he points out.

What is clear is that the association between Botsa and ZMCL will not continue with Zee 24 Gantalu, if one goes by what Sateesh Botsa has told Quoting him: "It was a management call to stop the channel due to several reasons. Now it is completely a ZMCL property. As a news channel it has stopped but they (Zee) may want to continue it as another channel.”

Alok Agrawal admits that the channel has been incurring losses and that they are looking at restructuring

A surf through the Telugu news channels space shows that Zee 24 Gantalu is airing only entertainment video footage and fillers without any ticker as of now. Additionally, rival channels told that Zee 24 Gantalu staff has started approaching them for jobs. An employee stated that the management has hammered out a severance package under the direction of ZMCL CFO Dinesh Garg which includes three months pay. Agrawal however stated that this is not true and that it could be possible that employees have chosen to look for jobs, because they know that a major restructuring is planned. Zee 24 Gantalu reportedly has 300 employees working with it.

The channel has been in the news recently because of the cases which have been filed against it for the stories it has aired - the latest one involving the Andhra Pradesh Police DGP V Dinesh Reddy. According to sources, this was one of the reasons that prompted Botsa to opt out.

Who chose to opt out is not clear, but clearly a new chapter is about to be written in the Zee 24 Gantalu saga.

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