Tamil satellite channel Win TV has alleged misuse of their respective positions of power by Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran, and his brother and Sun TV supreme, Kalanidhi Maran, to further the cause of the Sun TV network, and the DMK in Tamil Nadu. The channel stated that the duo had worked to curtail the freedom of the television media in Tamil Nadu by using their distribution muscle and ministerial powers.
Win TV’s CMD, Dhevanathan, said that an official representation would be made to the President of India and Members of Parliament on the issue, and claimed to have the support of 15 channel managements already.
Speaking to reporters at Chennai, Dhevanathan said, “For the last four years, the Maran brothers have ensured that neutral channels like Win TV do not reach the public, because of their ownership of the MSO, SCV. We have now seen beyond doubt that the curtailment of the press is not just restricted by reach and commercial considerations, there are political agendas as well. They want to ensure that Tamil audiences get to see only what they want to show them.”
The timing of the press conference left many wondering if there was a political motive behind the announcement. The elections to the state Assembly are due on May 8, 2006.
Dhevanathan explained that the issue was very much alive in the minds of several channel heads, but no one wanted to come out into the open against Dayanidhi Maran because of his present position of power. Since the clampdown on channels – and threats to his channel – had become more severe in recent times, he thought it fit to aggregate forces in the interest of a free media, he said.
“We have incurred losses of several crores of rupees because of SCV’s distribution tactics. At one point in time, there was a negotiation done for a fee of Rs 3.5 crore for carrying Win TV. We were told that this was needed to be routed to Kungumam, their magazine. We had even handed over the cheque. It was later returned to us saying the issue would be ‘considered later’. We realised that it was because they also wanted complete control over what was telecast in each of the channels,” fumed the channel chief.
A statement issued to media persons at the gathering said, “It is widely claimed by TAM that their meters are fixed in select households in Chennai, Trichy, Coimbatore and Madurai. Interestingly, SCV has monopolised cable distribution in those cities thereby, directing TAM to declare Sun TV programmes as the most popular and most sought after and frequently watched TV channel.”
Asked if there was a specific agenda to be put forth to the President of India and the Members of Parliament he planned to meet, Dhevanathan responded, “Yes. Dayanidhi Maran should not be a minister who has anything to do with I&B issues – and television channels and media – as his family is in the business. Moreover, it has been proven through several instances that they have tried to influence the working of others in the industry. It won’t be just us, other broadcasters will be joining us in making this representation. Alternately, issues relating to WPC and broadcast should be shifted from the Telecommunications Ministry to another ministry, like maybe, Defence.”
The channel spokesperson alleged that SCV did not carry Win TV signals in Trichy, Tirupur, Madurai and Coimbatore. He further said that specific news shows on the channel, including the morning news analysis ‘Seythigalum Najiangalum’, had received continuous threats from the Sun TV (and DMK) camp.