KOLKATA: Barely five months after NE Bangla rebranded itself to Focus Bangla due to a change of ownership, gossip has been doing the rounds that the Bengali News channel’s survival is a big question mark. For starters, its chief editor Biswa Majumdar has left for rival ETV Bangla as senior editor. Then the channel has yet to rake in the money and sources say that it was preparing to hand out pink slips and employee compensations.
However, when Focus Network group CEO Neeraj Sanan was contacted, he firmly asserted that any talk of the channel being shut down was baseless. In fact, he says there is no question of pulling down the shutters. "We are pretty bullish and are correcting everything that was wrong. We have just invested in a seven storied building in Odisha which will function as our office," he says. "We have taken 30,000 square feet of space in Noida and our Agartala operations have restarted," he says. "We are investing further: increments are slated to be handed out to our Bengal channel staff over the next couple of days and I will be personally going to Kolkata for the same."
But even then media expert Swaraj Mukherjee told indiantelevision.com that “the Jindals are still negotiating with an NRI buyer to sell Focus Bangla but so far that’s in limbo.”
Sanan rubbishes all this as corridor talk. He says a new chief editor will be hired soon to replace Majumdar at Focus Bangla.
Although 2013 wasn’t a very productive year for Bengali channels, Ethical Media Trust (EMT) that owns the Focus News network is looking at actively investing in its six channels. The Trust has Matang Singh, who was the former owner of the network that was erstwhile called as Positiv TV, as the majority shareholder with several others pumping in money as well.
The Harvard educated Sanan admits that cash flows and revenue inflows could be better, but he points out that "they are at significantly better as compared to the zero levels they were earlier. Eventually, things will really look up."
In an earlier interview with indiantelevision.com, Sanan had said that the network’s aim is to have an honest channel without any worry about the money required to run it.
(Updated on 4 August 2014 at 16:00 hours)