The already crowded TV news space has seen at least three dozen new launches in the past five months coinciding with the elections. Besides the so-called national space that comprises Hindi and English channels operating mainly out of Delhi, smaller broadcast markets such as Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, and Kerala too have witnessed some hurried launches.
India is already has as many news channels as those for all other genres such as general entertainment, films and sports put together. The trigger for the burst of fresh launches, according to those in the business, was the elections. According to estimates, more than Rs 300 crore has been spent on political advertising on TV so far. While this was the lure for some, for others the attraction was the assumed influence a news channel wields over politics and politicians, say those in the business.
The new promoters mainly included real estate developers, regional businessmen as well as large corporate houses, some with alleged political leanings. In March, for instance, TV18 Broadcast, with Reliance Industries as its primary investor, launched a Bangla news channel followed by one in Kannada. Three more, targeting Gujarat, Orissa, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were added last month, said Jagdeesh Chandra, head, ETV News Network. Chandra said all the relatively known 70 news channels in the north are making losses except the ETV Network. “I have no idea why people want to get into this business,” he said.
Another player to branch into regional markets was News Nation, a network co-promoted by industrialist Abhey Oswal, father-in-law of Congress MP Naveen Jindal. After a successful launch of its Hindi channel, the group launched new channels in UP and Uttarakhand. Notably, Oswal already has a stake a little less than 15 per cent in NDTV Ltd.
Supreme Court advocate Pradeep Rai, who has represented politicians such as Amar Singh, Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav in several cases, has launched a national channel, APN, with its primary focus on UP, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Bihar. “Once the elections are over, we will launch dedicated channels in all these markets alongside the national news operator,” said Raju Sareen who heads marketing operations for Rai. APN’s editorial team is led by Inderjit Budhwar.
A number of the new entrants have direct or indirect affiliations with parties or leaders. In Kerala, an RSS-backed channel called Janam (people) was launched last month. Madhyamam Group, with connections with the Jamait-e-Islami, relaunched