Star Explains Who Controls News Remote

New Delhi, July 30: | Updated: Jul 31 2003, 05:30am hrs
Rupert Murdoch holds the Star News remote. Replying to the 13 government queries, mainly on editorial control, Star has said that Hong Kong-based Star TV Pvt Ltd (STPL) has rights over content and personnel in the channel. STPL will have the right to review content as per international agreements between the licensor and the licensee, it has stated. In this case, licensor is STPL, while Media Content and Communication Services (MCCS) is the licensee.

Star created a shell companyMCCSto adhere to the Indian uplinking norms. MCCS has 26 per cent of Star stake and the remaining holding is with

Indian entities/individuals. But, from the companys answers to the latest volley of government questions on Star News uplinking, it is clear that control, to a large extent, is with STPL, a foreign company. As per the revised uplinking norms, foreign equity of a news channel must be capped at 26 per cent to be able to uplink from India. Since June 26, which was the deadline for adhering to these norms, Star News has been beaming live content from India through a series of temporary uplink permission(s).

In one of the replies, Star has said that MCCS ensures that certain quality and status is maintained in the channel. It has said that certain decisions on reporting are taken in concurrence with STPL.

In another crucial reply, the company has pointed out that a licensor (STPL) may require the licensee (MCCS) to make certain changes, in order to maintain certain quality in broadcasting.

On personnel issues also, STPL has a role. Star has told the government that the parties concerned have agreed that appointment, removal and reappointment of key personnel should be with the concurrence of STPL. This, the company added, is in view of the significance of personnel in ensuring quality and standards of the channel. This is to preserve the value of the Star News brand, under STPL licence.

Although the information and broadcasting ministry has not given its formal verdict on the latest Star reply yet, officials indicated that the company answers had not satisfied them. An inter-ministerial group, which was scheduled to meet today to deliberate on the Star News uplinking issue, deferred the meeting. The group will now meet either on Saturday or Monday. Next, the case will go to a group of ministers (GoM). Even as the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) is slated to take up the Star News case on Thursday, a decision is likely to be deferred because the I&B ministry is still considering the issue.

While the Star News controversy continues, sources said that the groups direct-to-home (DTH) venture is looking for an Indian shareholder. The buzz was that in the absence of such a shareholder, the company may have to revisit its DTH plans. So far, Space TV, backed by Star, has got a comfort letter from the government to apply for a letter of intent. Subhash Chandra-promoted ASC Enterprise Ltd is a step ahead of Star in the case of DTH, as it has already got an LoI.