Zee Telefilms is set to launch an English news channel for the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“The channel will be launched by January or February next year. We are also planning to launch a Russian entertainment channel soon. Our aim is to globalise our whole set-up,” Subhash Chandra, Chairman, Essel Group said at a press meet on Friday. The group had launched Zee Arabia last year. It also launched a channel in Indonesian, dubbed in the local Bahasa language.
Meanwhile, speaking about the controversy arising out of its acquiring 51 per cent stake for Rs 32 crore into the news agency UNI through its subsidiary Mediavest India Pvt Ltd, Chandra said that it should not be seen as a takeover as no shareholder had exited. “We have bought only the share that had been issued previously, but none of the stakeholders subscribed it. In fact, the Hindustan Times and The Times of India board members are re-elected even after our entry.”
“We are not going to derive any financial gain from having a stake in the company as it is a Section 25 company whose profits have to be ploughed back to the company,” Chandra added.
About the apprehension of retrenchment of UNI employees, Chandra assured that there would be no retrenchment “now or in future”. “Only some redeployment of forces may have to be done. Nobody in India can retrench any worker by force. Even we are yet to work out any VRS programme,” he added.
Asked about the government intervention in this matter, Chandra said, “The I&B Minister had asked for some details in this regard and we have provided the details. If the government or any group of newspapers wish to revive UNI, they should come forward, I am ready to leave my stake. I want to make UNI a world class news agency and I am into it due to sheer passion,” Chandra said. He also announced to infuse up to Rs 100 crore in two years’ time to revive the news agency.
“We want to give the global audience an Indian perspective through upgrading and adding to the existing resources at UNI. There will be no direct synergy with Essel Group companies, but we will be using our relation with global media companies and will ask them to subscribe UNI services,” Chandra further said.