Murdoch network plans cell

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By TIMUR MOON in Calcutta
  • Published 28.07.03

Calcutta, July 28: International news network Sky News will launch a bureau in India this autumn, expected to be based in either Delhi or Mumbai.

The satellite news broa- dcaster owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch will work in close co-operation with STAR News, the Hindi channel operated by News Corporation, the largest shareholder in the UK outfit’s parent company, BSkyB.

The new bureau is expe- cted to operate initially with a skeleton staff, recruiting a team of just three — a correspondent, a cameraman and a producer.

The news comes as part of a general review of the UK company’s programming, with head of Sky News Nick Pollard expected to introduce major changes from September.

In a bid to bolster its newsgathering operation, Sky is expected to recruit a further 15 reporters, cameramen and producers in Britain. It has also announced plans to buy a helicopter — or “Skycopter” — to enable the channel reach the scene of breaking news faster.

“In an increasingly competitive news environment, Sky News is determined to stay ahead. More staff, a new bureau and the Skycopter will help us remain not only the first, but also the fastest,” Pollard said.

Sky found itself mired in controversy last week, when it emerged that its longstan- ding correspondent Jason Furlong had faked a report on the Iraq war that claimed to show a cruise missile launch aboard a British navy submarine.

Furlong was forced to res- ign after he was exposed for staging the footage in co-operation with British soldiers, who agreed to pose for the benefit of the report, which was subsequently pooled to other news organisations who were not informed of the dubious circumstances.

Murdoch has meanwhile faced repeated setbacks in his bid to bolster his presence in India.

STAR News has been facing a series of government questions over the issue of a long-term uplinking licence to the channel. The question-and-answer exchanges between the ministry and STAR now stretch beyond 600 pages.

The latest letter, dated July 26, questions STAR’s right to appoint and make changes in the editorial personnel manning its shell company, Media Content and Communication Services (MCCS), which is seeking the uplinking licence.

The government is also revising rules on foreign investment in the news and current affairs category for television broadcasters but has stopped short of asking Murdoch’s channel to stop direct telecasts in its news bulletins.