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NCP tunes into channel

New Delhi, Dec. 26: Sharad Pawar’s NCP is set to get the licence for a channel despite the telecom regulator’s suggestion that political parties be kept out of satellite TV.

To be launched first in Malayalam, the channel is likely to be named Priyadarshini, after Indira Gandhi. The registration is done and the licence is expected any time.

Kerala NCP president and senior Congress leader K. Karunakaran’s son K. Muraleedharan is touring the Gulf now to collect funds for the channel, likely to go on air by April.

However, NCP leaders insist the channel will not be owned by the party but run as a public limited company. The Marathi and Hindi channels, to be launched next, will also not be owned by the party directly.

“Although the NCP will have a major stake in the channel, we want to run it in a professional manner and not as a party mouthpiece,” said Preeyesh, an NCP leader and media coordinator for the channel which, he added, would offer news, current affairs and entertainment.

The NCP’s move comes at a time the information and broadcasting ministry is considering recommendations submitted last month by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) that parties shouldn’t be allowed to launch channels as it was “undemocratic”.

The telecom regulator had cited the Sarkaria Commission’s view that there would be an “erosion of basic tenets of plurality of views” if parties launched channels.

Asked how the NCP channel had got registration despite Trai’s recommendations, a ministry official sought to point out that the proposals hadn’t been accepted.

“It is true that Trai has recommended not giving permission to parties to start channels. But it is unlikely the government will approve them as the stakes are very high,” said the official, appearing to suggest that many parties already owned channels in some way.

Trai had suggested that recognised parties needn’t set up TV networks as other channels could provide them “reasonable access” in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. However, it had asked the ministry to seek the Election Commission’s guidance to frame the final guidelines.

The ruling Congress runs a channel, though indirectly, in Kerala. The CPM runs Kairali TV in Kerala.

The trend is more widespread in Tamil Nadu, where almost all major parties own channels. The DMK launched Kalaignar TV after M. Karunanidhi’s tiff with the Maran brothers, who own SunTV, once seen as the party’s mouthpiece. ADMK chief Jayalalithaa has Jaya TV, the PMK has Makkal TV and the Dalit Panthers has Tamizhan.

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