TV channels storm arena in Kerala’s political battle

It is the smallest broadcast market in southern India, but thanks to its politically charged environment, Kerala is all set to see an upsurge in TV news space over the next six months.

At least eight new players have announced their intent to launch 24x7 news channels in the state; two are expected to go on air in the next one month while others are waiting for government approval.

Kerala, at present, has four exclusive news channels and at least four more news-cum-entertainment channels. Among the two players set to enter the market in the next few weeks are Reporter TV, led by M V Nikesh Kumar, who is reportedly backed by sundry investors; and a channel by the Mathrubhumi group that publishes several leading magazines and a daily by the same name.

Those waiting in the wings include media companies such as Raj TV, Kerala Kaumudi Group and Madhyamam Group as well as some political parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim League.

The state already has news channels owned or backed by political parties such as Indiavision, whose Chairman Dr M K Muneer is a former PWD minister and Indian Union Muslim League leader; Kairali TV's People News (said to be backed by CPM); and Jai Hind channel, run by the state Congress unit.

Asianet News, with Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar as a majority owner, also runs a news channel, along with a general entertainment channel, in a joint venture with Rupert Murdoch's Star Network. The other big player is the Sun TV group, that runs Surya TV. "Most of the proposed news channels aimed at a launch around the elections but couldn't get necessary approvals in time," said Dr Muneer.

On the face of it, the entry of so many news channels defies business logic. "It is the smallest market in terms of viewership and advertising revenue in the entire southern market," says Frank Thomas, Business Head, Asianet News.

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