The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Twins turn out with truth-first motto
- News duo vies for space on overcrowded cable beam

It gave India The World This Week, brought the Kargil war into our drawing rooms and set up STAR News, India’s first 24-hour news channel. The honeymoon with STAR over, NDTV is all set to grab eyeballs on its own, with the commissioning of its two dedicated news channels on April 14.

NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India, the 24-hour English and Hindi news channels of the company, were launched at a multi-city video press conference on Thursday, with the promise of “Experience. Truth first”. Explaining the channel twins’ motto, NDTV president Prannoy Roy said: “We don’t just bring you the news first, we bring you the truth first. We have experienced journalists, not just newsreaders.”

But, whether Calcutta will be able to renew prime-time ties with such household names like Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, Arnab Goswami, Srinivasan Jain, besides Roy himself from Monday only, is not very clear, with existing players like Aaj Tak, Zee News, ETV Bangla and Alpha Bangla all commanding dedicated viewership.

“We will have to wait for response from the ground, but it’s unlikely that the NDTV channels will be on our feed from Day One. There’s just so many channels we can accommodate on our platform, and the recent surfeit of news channels means they will jostle for space among themselves,” said RPG Netcom CEO Ashim Dutta.

SitiCable, though, is likely to carry the English version, 24x7 from Monday itself. “In Calcutta, there seems to be a pent-up demand for a quality English news channel, after STAR News, in its earlier avatar, went off the air. So, we might squeeze in NDTV’s English channel on our feed, of course on a tunable band,” said a SitiCable franchisee.

Roy and NDTV director Narayan Rao are, however, confident their channels will soon fight their way through the clutter into the prime band.

“Given our experience in covering landmark events, continued commitment to accuracy, honesty and speed and the cutting-edge technology we have invested in, we are confident even in the post-CAS scenario, viewers will stay with us,” said Roy.

Besides using helicopters and fixed-wing planes for news coverage, NDTV will also use opt-out technology, “another first”, to offer the viewer the choice to break out of the national news bulletin and watch a news programme specific to their city in a local language.

The service is first being launched in Marathi, to be followed by Tamil. The Bengali opt-out service will also be launched soon. “After all, my heart lies very much with Calcutta,” said the NDTV boss.

The pay channels will be available on Sony-Discovery’s One Alliance platform, and will come free for the time being. Prices will be announced later.

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