Forget about the TV soaps, the news wars are here. If all goes according to plan, Indian viewers will be able to choose from a large number of news channels. And the biggest winners in the battle of the channels will be journalists.
Star will start its own news channel once the contract with NDTV expires in April. Not to be outdone, NDTV will not only keep its existing English news channel on air but will also start a Hindi news channel. Meanwhile, Aaj Tak will go in the opposite direction — it will start an English channel to complement the existing Hindi news channel.
The biggest winners in the battle of the channels will be journalists. The market is abuzz with rumours of defections and seductions; of fat pay packets and generous contracts; of new hirings and desperate negotiations.
Sanjay Pugalia, formerly of Aaj Tak and Zee News, is the new head of Star’s Hindi service. Star is now said to be engaged in negotiations with many well-known anchors to lure them away from their existing channels.
At NDTV, there has been a vast inflation of titles in an effort to retain talent — nearly every anchor you can think of is called an editor of some description.
Meanwhile, NDTV has begun recruiting for its Hindi channel. Dibang, one of Aaj Tak’s best known faces, will be its head and Alka Saxena, currently of Zee News, is unwilling to confirm or deny rumours.
At Aaj Tak, Uday Shankar, the low-profile but highly-respected backroom boy who is widely credited with having ensured Aaj Tak’s rise, has been given the job of putting together an English channel.