Saradha Group: Anchoring a channel

Written by Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay | Updated: Jul 21 2013, 23:59pm hrs
Tara Newz

Deepankar Nag, 41 Chief Reporter, Secretary of the Tara TV Employees Welfare Association Routine: Starts the day around 10 am with calls to district correspondents, wraps up 12 hours later, after the prime time show

TARA Newz and Tara Muzik are the only two surviving TV channels of the defunct Saradha Groups media business that once also constituted three other channels, an FM radio and four dailies. And if these two channels have so far weathered the storm, a large part of the credit must go to Deepankar Nag, 41.

He is the chief reporter and secretary of the Tara TV Employees Welfare Association, which has been entrusted the responsibility of running the two channels by the Calcutta High Court. With uncertainty now a constant part of the lives of the 168 employees of the two Tara TV channels, Nag as the de facto CEO provides that modicum of calm.

After the Saradha Group went bust following the chit fund scam and its media groups started shutting down, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced on May 22 her decision to take over the Tara TV channels. However, since the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has ruled that no state government can run a TV channel, that can only happen if she promulgates an ordinance or Bill in this regard.

In the meantime, the Mamata government is paying the salaries of the 168 Tara channel employees from the Chief Ministers relief fund.

Nag is proud of the arrangement they have arrived at regarding that money all the employees of Tara TV, from editors to peons, currently get the same salaryRs 16,000 every month. I lose Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 every month. At the same time, there are people who gain

Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000. But I had to accept it because my purpose was to run the channel, Nag says.

Apart from the Tara channels, a Bengali daily and an Urdu daily are the only functional outfits from Saradhas media empire now.

Nag, who lives in Rajarhat with his wife and a college-going daughter, spends a full day of work at the channels, notwithstanding their dwindling fortunes and shaky standing. His day starts with a morning walk at a nearby park, and after he is back, he starts calling his district correspondents to fix the days schedule for them. He is in office between 11.30 am and 12 noon when he presides over a news meeting. He then sits with other heads of departments and looks at administrative matters.

As the administrative head, Nag has to meet service providers, advertisers in order to bargain for rates, government representatives etc, before lunch arrives. The staff has made it a habit to eat together. The lunch that people get from home is kept in one place and shared, says Nag.

Administrative matters take away a lot of my time as a journalist. I am also a reporter and I have the Writers Building to cover, he admits. However, he says, he realises that if the channel has to keep going, he has to balance both his roles. Indrajit Roy, the president of the employees association, is a big help on the administrative side.

Nag has another unenviable job, helping investigative agencies look into the Saradha scam. Recently, I was called by the Enforcement Branch of the state police and spent about three hours there. They asked me all about the channel and I told them what I knew. In fact we were the first people to file a complaint against Saradha owner Sudipto Sen and that is why they always call us for help in the investigation, he says.

By evening, Nag again switches rolesanchoring Prime Time, a panel discussion slot slated between 8 and 9 pm, in his role as chief reporter. I have to prepare for the show and I need to do a lot of homework as we discuss current topics, Nag says.

Worries do plague him at times, the paramount being how long they can continue on the CMs relief fund, which is essentially meant to help those poor and extremely needy. What can one do I know many journalists who worked in various Saradha news campanies and are living in abject penury. Now our chief minister is trying hard to find a solution. We hope we will find a way out, Nag says.

Few in the state have forgotten the telecast of April 15 when Tara Muziks anchors and a host of independent artistes invited to celebrate the Bengali New Year broke down on camera. The unprecedented show didnt just lift the lid off the crisis of survival at the channel but ultimately proved the blow that brought Saradhas house of cards down.

More than two months later, Nag realises any day could be that day. However, he is determined to fight. Tired by the time he wraps up at 10 pm, he says: The show must go on. We have a bumpy ride ahead but we have to fight. That is the only option we are left with.