January 2020


The Lok Sabha Standing Committee on Information Technology headed by Dr. Shashi Tharoor has presented the Second Report of the Committee on "Demands for Grants (2019-20)" relating to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).

The committee has expressed their concern over the poor utilisation of funds by the MIB during 2019-20 (up to July 2019). The utilisation of funds particularly for Prasar Bharati & the Film Sector is far below targets.

Out of an allocation of ` 473 crore, Prasar Bharati could spend ` 26.83 crore (5.6%) only. In the case of Film Sector, out of an allocation of ` 156 crore, only ` 16.79 crore (10.17%) was spent.

The committee has also pointed out that the National Centre for Excellence for Animation, Visual effects, Gaming and Comics (NCoE), with approval for a total outlay of ` 167.70 crore, has been delayed.

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Arnab Goswami's Republic Media Network plans to launch several regional news channels. The network currently owns and operates 2 FTA news channels: Republic TV in English & Republic Bharat in Hindi.

"Starting January 2020, Republic Media Network will publish and broadcast in all major Indian languages," Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami announced at the network's second Republic Summit. "Republic Media Network has formally begun the process of expanding into global news operations," he added.

In May 2019, Arnab Goswami bought back shares in ARG Outlier from Rajeev Chandrasekhar's Asianet News Media to become a fully editor-controlled company. However, Asianet News Media continues to support Republic Media Network as a minority portfolio investor.

At that time, Republic Media Network was valued at ` 1200 crore.

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A week earlier, press reports indicated that Mukesh Ambani was in talks to sell his TV18 entertainment channels to SONY.

Latest press reports indicate that talks are also on with the Times group to sell their News Channels, to the Times Group. More suitors may emerge. Talks are at a preliminary stage.

Reliance Industries is spinning off its non core assets to reduce its huge debt of ` 1,54,478 Crores - the highest of any Indian corporate. Ambani has promised shareholders a zero net-debt company by end 2020.

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The Hyderabad police has booked 7 persons for allegedly tampering TV viewership for 2 Telugu news channels in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The police have registered cases under Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC, read with 34. Charge sheets were filed & cases were registered following a complaint lodged by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC)'s vigilance wing with the Marredpally police. This is the latest incident in which BARC has taken action. Earlier, BARC had taken action against viewership tampering in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Assam.

BARC had noted that the highest number of viewership tampering instances have been reported from markets in South India: 6 from Tamil Nadu, 5 from AP/ Telangana and 1 from Karnataka. Penal action has been taken against 12 channels in the country.

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Jayantilal Gada's film production and distribution company Pen India, which currently owns and operates 2 channels: B-Flix and iLove, plans to launch 6 more channels in 2020. WoW Music was renamed iLove, when the channel got a slot on DD FreeDish. B-Flix was launched in July 2018 as WoW Movie.

On 21 October 2019, Pen Music, a subsidiary of Pen India, received downlinking licenses for 3 new Hindi, non-news channels: Issaq, Play My Movie, and Play My Song.

Pen India also has plans to launch its subscription video on demand (SVoD) service Play My Movie (PMM).

PEN has diversified its business from solely being a video cassette library to trading video rights and distributing video cassettes, and subsequently to acquiring and distributing copyrights of Hindi feature films for video, satellite, terrestrial and other mediums. Pen claims rights to more than 500 films & more than 10,000 songs.

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The MIB granted downlinking licenses to 10 new TV channels in November 2019. 8 for Non-News & 2 for News Channels.

Hari Bhoomi Communications received 2 news licences for Janta TV Madhya Pradesh & Janta TV Chhattisgarh. The company already owns and operates a Hindi news channel called Janta TV.

Khusboo Multimedia received 2 non-news licences for Popular TV & Tamasha. The company already owns & operates Khusboo Bangla.

Kasthuri Medias got 2 licences for non-news Kannada channels Kasthuri Comedy & Kasthuri Gold. The company runs a Kannada GEC Kasthuri TV besides a Kannada news channel Kasthuri News 24.

Ganesh Digital Networks received licences to launch non news channels Studio One Plus and Studio Yuva.

Shraddha M.H One TV and Live India Today Entertainment received one licence each for non-news channels Shraddha Vishwas Aapka and Wave Wings.

The ministry also cancelled 3 licences which were surrendered by their owners.

Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Pvt Ltd surrendered its licences for news channels Mathrubhumi News North & Mathrubhumi News South. ZEEL surrendered its (non-news) uplinking-only licence Zee ME.

With these changes, there are now 919 licensed TV channels.

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In a bid to grow its viewership, Zee Hindustan - the Hindi news channel is now also available in Tamil and Telugu, the 2 largest markets in South India. This will provide it audiences in Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The Zee Hindustan channel has been re-launched as a 'Anchorless News Channel' to provide news, unbiased by over-opinionated News anchors. Its tag line is 'Ab Anchor Nahi, Khabrein Khud Bolengi, Kyun Ki Aap Samajhdaar Hai.'

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Bloomberg may quit its joint venture with Raghav Bahl's Quint, and tie up with another Indian partner, according to press reports. The JV (76:24 in Quint's favour) collapse has been denied by both parties, but reports say it is due to the JV not getting a TV channel license for a business news channel, since 2016.

In the last decade, Bloomberg has ended 2 collaborations - with Ronnie Screwvala's UTV and the Anil Ambani group.

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