The battle for eyeballs is hotting up in Karnataka with more leading politicians launching vernacular news channels very soon. In any case, every major political party already has a channel run by a prominent member. Though advertising revenue is not very encouraging, that hasn’t deterred the netas. They also don’t see lack of experience in media management as hindrance. The latest to take the plunge will be the Reddy brothers of Bellary, who are all set to launch Janasri, a 24/7 news channel (the name is derived from Janardhana and Sriramulu). This was seen necessary because most other channels owned by politicians were stridently anti-BJP or anti-Reddys. They’ve been working for over a year to launch this channel, in Kannada and Telugu. Former PM H D Deve Gowda’s family owns Kasturi Kannada Vahini channel and also controls part of the distribution business. Anitha Kumaraswamy, JD(S) legislator and wife of former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, heads the channel which is, quite unsurprisingly, a party mouthpiece. Congress recently jumped into the fray with senior leader and former minister Satish Jharkiholi, a business magnate from Belgaum, launching Samay. Four years ago, Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrashekar’s Jupiter Entertainment Ventures acquired 51% stake in Asianet Communications, which runs a bouquet of Malayalam TV channels. Chandrashekar, who won the elections as an independent with the help of JD(S) and BJP, later started Suvarna 24/7 and an entertainment channel. The channel is providing serious competition to TV9, the leading channel in Karnataka, owned by Associated Broadcasting Company (ABCL) of Hyderabad. Another player soon will be Hubli-based transport tycoon Vijay Sankeshwar, a three-time MP and now BJP MLC, who plans to start Vijay TV early next year. Most politicians see news channels as an economical option to get favourable coverage and build up a public image.
Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of channels owned by political parties or their close aides. These include Sun TV (owned by DMK supremo M Karunanidhi’s grandnephews Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi Maran) and Jaya TV (owned by Jayalalithaa). Captain TV is owned by actor-turned-politician Vijaykanth besides Mega TV and two Congressmen launched Vasanth channel while Makkal TV espouses the PMK cause. After DMK leaders fell out with the Marans last year, the party launched Kalaignar TV.
In Andhra Pradesh, the late YSR’s son Jaganmohan Reddy owns Sakshi TV and Sakshi newspaper.
In Kerala, Malayalam Communications runs a couple of channels which are CPM-backed, while Congressmen have their Jaihind channel. M K Muneer of Muslim League has started India Vision.