News channel ownership: I&B secy asks IBF to take tough stand

Mumbai : Noting the industry’s concerns over ownership of some news channels, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Sunil Arora today asked the industry body Indian Broadcasting Foundation to take a firm stand on the issue. To a question on non-serious players entering the news broadcasting space for ancillary benefits at a Ficci Frames session here, Arora said: “I don’t know what you mean by ancillary benefits, but I presume it kind of subserves as a camouflage for their business interest.”

Asking industry body IBF to make up its mind to deal with such players, Arora said “If the government comes down heavily on them, we will be blamed for government intervention…

“The cap on investment will not do, as such people have deep pockets. What we need to do is to make the industry body IBF more harsher against such fringe elements who are trying to subserve their business interest via news channels,” the secretary said.

Zee Group promoter Subhash Chandra had aired concerns over the doubtful ownership of some channels some time back and said it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the news channels were “owned by the underworld.”

Arora added the ministry is concerned about financial aspects of media and entertainment companies, especially the standalone news channels.

“We are also concerned on viability, especially that of standalone news channels. At the moment it is only the very big houses which can cost subsidise loss-making channels, as most of the paid channels, including GECs, do not seem to be in the pink of financial health,” he said.

Explaining difficulties faced by standalone news channels, Star India head Uday Shankar said: “It’s very difficult for standalone news channels. News in itself is a very small business. It doesn’t get watched by many people as drama, films or sports. On top of that as news channels has very poor ability to get subscription income, they will have to rely heavily on advertising income.”

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