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Writer: Abhinav Trivedi - Wednesday, Mar 13,2013 11:54 PM

Is Naveen Jindal the next media mogul in making?

Speculations are rife among market sources and media pundits that Naveen Jindal, MP from Kurukshetra, Haryana, and Chairman of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) is reportedly eyeing or discussing buying a majority stake in Northeast’s leading news channel NE TV in Assam through his family and associates. The channel has a huge reach in the region.

The talks could be led by Abhey Kumar Oswal, Jindal’s father-in-law, who through his company Oswal Green Tech also owns a 14.17 per cent stake in NDTV. The talks, if any, could be currently held in legal framework and both sides might try to forge a possible solution.

NE TV is currently run by Assam politician Matang Sinh. Sinh was the former minister of state for parliamentary affairs in the PV Narsimharao government. He owns NE TV, Focus TV, NE Bangla, NE Hi Fi, Hamar TV, HY TV, Radio Oo la la and controls them through holding companies Positiv Television Pvt Ltd and Positiv Radio Pvt Ltd. Sinh was suspended from the congress in the year 2000, but returned to the party in 2011 on the sound backing of senior party leader Digvijay Singh.

Although NE TV has a wide reach in the North East region, the channel in Assam has not been reportedly doing well and media critics and the Enforcement Directorate have regularly been vocal about the deplorable financial irregularities of the channel. The ED in 2011 had raided the offices and residence of Matng Sinh.

Interestingly Former Editor-in-Chief of the channel and estranged wife of Matang Sinh, Manoranjana Sinh, is now the Editor-in-Chief and CMD of Frontier TV.

The corporate legal advisor, a senior editor of NE TV refused to comment on the story saying that commenting would be beyond their scope of work. exchange4media could not access any financial statement or balance sheet of NE TV.

Although the proceedings may be in shape, the materialisation of the deal could also be in due diligence. As approval of all the board members is required for selling stake in the channel, materialisation of the deal, if any, is still speculative and no source has yet confirmed anything about the deal.

Abhey Oswal, Naveen Jindal and Matang Sinh did not respond to the repeated queries made by exchange4media.

Is this a trend that will accentuate?
When Rupert Murdoch and his paper ‘News of the World’ in the UK were booked for phone hacking, speculations were rife that Murdoch’s close link with British politicians evangelised his presence in almost every political gallery in the London, which finally gave an opportunity to the media house to command almost every move at 10 Downing street, London. Rebekah Brooks, the CEO of News International was also amongst the key people who were booked in the scandal.

Back here in India, it’s a different ball game altogether. Due to lack of organised political lobbying (although effective as witnessed in 2G scam) and the influence media commands in the country, politicians and corporates are steadily capitalising the opportunity and spreading their influence in the media sphere.

Jagan Reddy in Andhra owns ‘Sakshi TV’, reportedly Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu owns ‘Jaya TV’, The Maran family owns ‘Sun TV’, Shivsena owns ‘Saamna’, Jay Panda’s associates  control  ‘Odisha TV’, SAD’s associates in Punjab own ‘PTC’ and ‘PTC News’. The list is unending.

Apart from this, many politicians own equity stakes in various media houses. Many media houses are regularly blamed for political inclination towards a specific party.

Corporates are not far behind either, with Reliance Industries controlled trust off late investing approximately Rs 1,500 crore, which will result in consolidated content access to the company from Raghav Behl’s TV18 and Eenadu TV (Telugu) owned by Ramoji Rao. The Aditya Vikram Birla Group has also taken a substantial stake in India Today Group. While Sanjeev Goenka owns Open Magazine, it is understood from reliable sources that Goenka is also eyeing assets in the media domain.

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