Congress plans two more news channels before poll

September 30th, 2008 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) In the run-up to the next general election, the Congress party plans to launch two news channels in Karnataka and Maharashtra at a cost of Rs.300 million (Rs. 30 crores), subject to approval from party president Sonia Gandhi. Those behind this ambitious project are three senior Congress leaders from Kerala - Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and M.M. Hassan - who have the requisite experience in running a television channel, Jai Hind TV. The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee and a clutch of non- resident Indians (NRIs) are behind this channel that was launched in the state last year.

“We are all set to launch the channels before the next general election,” senior Congress leader and managing director of Jai Hind TV M.M. Hassan told IANS.

“We have submitted a proposal to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and are waiting for the green signal from the high command.”

Oommen Chandy, the leader of the opposition in the Kerala assembly, was optimistic of the launch.

“It will be a truly professional news channel and not a biased one. This will not be a mouthpiece for the party,” he said.

In all likelihood the channels will be called Jai Hind-Maratha in Maharashtra and Jai Hind-Kannada in Karnataka.

According to senior party leaders, a representative from the state congress committee will be on the editorial board of each channel.

The Congress’ Kerala unit president, Ramesh Chennithala, has just returned from a whirlwind tour of the US and Gulf countries meeting up with NRIs for funding the launch of the proposed channels.

Chief editor of Jai Hind TV Sunnykutty Abraham said: “Though we launched Jai Hind just a year ago we have got a tremendous response and our ratings are steadily going up. I guess it will take a couple of more years to make it a profitable venture.”

Kerala’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) already has its own news channel, Kairali, that started in 2000 and so has the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), called India Vision.

Taking a cue from both the Congress and the CPI-M, the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Kerala unit is also set to launch a news channel soon, to be called Janapriya. K. Muralidharan, the son of Congress veteran K. Karunakaran, is the brain behind this project.

Commenting on the trend of political parties starting news channels, N.P. Chekkutty, the founder director of the Kairali channel, said: “Television channels run by political parties start on laudable terms but within no time they begin plugging the party line and within no time all sense of professionalism is lost”.

IUML leader and former minister M.K. Muneer said political parties were just joining the entrepreneurship trend started by the CPI-M.

“The CPI-M is like a limited company as it owns assets worth more than Rs.10 billion in Kerala. Most other parties are just following suit,” he said.

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