News Corporation-controlled Star News, India’s second most popular TV news channel, is faced with a stark choice: ensure that at least 51% of the channel’s stock is held by an Indian-owned company - or closure.
The options were spelled out five days ago at a meeting led by abrasive Indian premier Atal Behari Vajpayee – and Star has just four weeks in which to comply with the demand. Due to the political/ethnic diversity of his nation, prime minister Vajpayee is less reliant on the support of Murdoch’s media-machine than his UK counterpart.
The new rules, which follow intensive lobbying by Star rivals, including Star’s former joint-venture partner Zee-TV, require foreign satellite news channels to be majority-owned by an Indian company.
NewsCorp has reportedly already discussed its controlling 26% stake with potential buyers, among them an unnamed Calcutta newspaper group and another company whose assets include the Hindustani Times.
Star India, which is controlled by Murdoch’s son James, generates about £167 million ($262.09m; €240.58m) annually – or 70% of Star TV's total Asian revenues
But Murdoch minor’s genes are not programmed to go gentle into that good night. In a private soldier’s farewell last month, Star published an open letter accusing its competitors of orchestrating a media campaign “calculated to confuse and people and to misrepresent the facts”.
Which, as one local observer commented, is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black!
• Meantime, NewsCorp is seeking to unload its minority 8.1%stake in SkyPerfecTV, Japan’s sole satellite broadcaster. It has reportedly asked SPTV’s other shareholders – Sony, Fuji TV and Itochu, each holding a 12.6% stake – if they are interested in buying.
They are not trampling each other in the rush.
“We have been approached by NewsCorp about their stake,” ho-hummed Sony on Tuesday. “We are aware that NewsCorp has wanted to sell its stake for a while,” said Itochu, adding that no decision had been made, while Fujitsu was equally non-committal: “We cannot comment since nothing has been decided yet.”
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk and Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff