Post-Saradha, I&B seeks equity details of all TV channels

FP

In the wake of the collapse of the Saradha chit fund company, the Information & Broadcasting Ministry has asked all television channels — general entertainment as well as news and current affairs — to furnish details of their shareholding pattern and equity structure. This includes the Saradha Group.

According to sources, the ministry's letter, sent on Friday, asks channels to inform whether there had been any changes in their shareholding pattern or any dilution made in their equity structure since the grant of licences to them. In case of any changes or dilution, the channels have to explain why they had not informed the I&B Ministry.

It is perhaps for the first time that the ministry has asked all the channels to give such details after grant of licences, although individual channels have been told in the past to furnish this information after specific complaints. According to official data, there are about 825 private satellite television channels in India.

The immediate provocation for the I&B missive seems to be the collapse of the Saradha Group, which ran a clutch of television channels — Tara Muzik, Tara Newz and South Asia TV — and newspapers such as Sakalbela in Bengali, Prabhat Varta in Hindi, Bengal Post and Seven Sisters Post in English and Kalom and Azad Hind in Urdu, which are all shut now. The group also ran a Bengali weekly magazine, Paroma.

It is suspected that changes were made in the shareholding pattern of some of these channels, launched or taken over by Saradha Printing and Publications Pvt Ltd, in 2011.

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