Star TV – the Asian outpost of the Murdoch empire – is to sell a majority stake in its Indian news channel to a local media group.

Calcutta-based Ananda Bazar Patrika is to buy the holding in a deal that should settle a longstanding row between Star – India’s leading foreign broadcaster – and the country’s government.

Star’s Hindi-language news venture was nearly forced off the air in July after a disagreement over the 26% cap on foreign ownership of broadcast news media. The TV group was accused by officials and rival media groups of trying to circumvent this limit by forming a shell company to hold the Indian news assets.

Then last month the government gave Star four weeks to comply with a new rule insisting that a single Indian investor must hold at least 51% of its stock [WAMN: 28-Aug-03].

As a result, ABP – the fiefdom of Bengali media mogul Aveek Sarkar – will purchase between 51% and 74% of Star’s news vehicle Media Content and Communications Services.

“This [deal] should end the regulatory controversy,” declared an ABP executive. “We hope that Star TV can return to business as usual.”

It is thought James Murdoch, Star boss and progeny of Rupert, chose Sarkar because he was keen to link with an established media group.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff