Who favours which channel: parties warm up for polls with an exchange

The Shiromani Akali Dal has responded with past details of Amarinder’s patronage of Punjab Today and Balle Balle

Written by Sukhdeep Kaur | Chandigarh | Published: January 6, 2012 3:40 am

Ahead of the elections,each of Punjab’s leading political fronts has started needling the other about how much it patronises or has patronised TV channels. And though each has projected its claim as a scam,neither the Badals nor Captain Amarinder Singh has been upset by what the other side has said.

The Congress has unearthed what it calls the “Badal TV scam” about the family’s ownership and alleged patronage of PTC Networks. The Shiromani Akali Dal has responded with past details of Amarinder’s patronage of Punjab Today and Balle Balle.

PTC Networks,which includes PTC Punjabi,PTC Chak De and PTC News,had a turnover of Rs 40 crore last year and is the most viewed among Punjabi channels,according to Television Audience Measurement ratings. Amarinder,the PCC chief,held a press conference some time ago to show that it is owned by the Badals.

Citing figures from the Registrar of Companies,he said 99.9 per cent of the shares of G-Next Media,the company that owns PTC,is held by Gur-Baz Media Pvt Ltd,whose majority shareholder,in turn,is Orbit Resorts owned by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal. “Out of 75 lakh shares,74.99 lakh are held by Gur-Baz Media… Gur-Baz in turn has 75.1 lakh shares of which Orbit Resorts owns 75.09 lakh,” Amarinder said.

He went on to claim that PTC is being favoured with government advertisements and exclusive coverage rights to major events such as the kabaddi World Cup and Gurbani. Citing figures obtained through an RTI application,he said PTC was given Rs 67 lakh in ads between February 2007 — when the Badals came to power — and June 2011. Ads worth another Rs 63 lakh,he said,were given to Fastway,the state’s biggest multi-service operator.

The SAD came up with the counterclaim that Amarinder showered Punjab Today and Balle Balle,owned by STV Enterprises,with government ads during his tenure as chief minister. “Punjab Agro Industries Ltd paid Rs 8.42 crore,Markfed Rs 7.6 crore,Punjab Small Savings Rs 3.05 crore and Milkfed Rs 77 lakh. Not only were these ads not paid for according to approved rates,the corporations were also asked to pay in advance. Punjab Agro has filed 14 criminal cases against STV for recovery of dues amounting to Rs 55 lakh for non-airing of ads,” SAD spokesperson Daljeet Singh Cheema said.

Citing letters obtained through the RTI Act,the party said the then government insisted on airing such ads in spite of objections. For example,the SAD said,the Punjab Agro MD in 2003 felt that it would not be able to sustain an advertisement campaign,but the CM’s media adviser B I S Chahal wrote back,“The CM desires that the PAFC sustain the existing level of publicity to electronic media and rather increase the same.”

“We were fully patronising Punjab Today,” Amarinder agreed,“but it was not owned by us,unlike PTC,which is getting donations from the government.”

PTC asserts there is nothing wrong if a political party holds a stake in a television channel. “None from the Badal family is on the board of directors or management,not do they interfere in our functioning… among channels,we have been given the least ads by the Punjab government,despite having higher viewership and rating. Also,all ads are released as per DAVP rates,” G-Next president Rabindra Narayan said.

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