Alokananda Chakraborty

SABTNL mulls news channel launch

The Adhikari Brothers-promoted television network is keen on launching a news channel

Here's one more to fall prey to the lure of news.

The Adhikari Brothers-promoted SABTNL, which runs general entertainment channel SABe TV, is exploring the possibility of launching a news channel. Though Markand Adhikari, vice-chairman and managing director, SABe TV, declined to comment on the issue, he did confirm that the network was "considering the launch of another channel". An official close to the development told agencyfaqs!, "Plans for the news channel are still at the drawing board stage."

Interestingly, this is not the first time that SABe is mulling the launch of a news-based channel. In the year 2000, SABe had hired ex-STAR TV hand Ashu Dutt as CEO (new channel initiatives), sparking off speculation that SABe might be considering entering the news programming space. For some reason, the project didn't take off and Dutt (who had also served as CEO, convergence, at moved on.

While sources at the channel refused talk any further on the news channel plans, the channel brass seems upbeat about the prospects of flagship SABe TV, which has completed two years in the general entertainment space with a distinct positioning of current affairs and comedies. Adhikari reiterated. "Our strategy has been to concentrate on good sitcoms/satires as well as produce high profile current affairs programmes with high profile anchors."

Hot properties on the channel include award-winner, Office Office and Public Hai Sab Janti Hai with Sajid-Khan starrer Akting Akting being its latest offering. "Akting Akting is a classroom drama with Sajid Khan in the lead whereas Public Hai Sab Janti Hai is a political satire, more of an answer to Ram Khilavan C.M & Family," he added.

Ram Khilavan, a take on Bihar's first family, has been mired in controversy since its launch on August 5, 2002. After only five episodes, the political satire was taken off air due to a suit slapped on the makers of the comedy as well as the channel, cast and crew, in the Patna High Court. "It is a symbol of the freedom of expression," states Adhikari about the replacement Public Hai which is telecast on Mondays and Tuesdays at 8.30 pm.

Office Office, meanwhile, continues to pick up more awards with the most recent being a clutch of four trophies from the Indian Television Academy on December 2, 2002. Earlier, the sitcom telecast from Saturday to Tuesday at 8.00 pm, had bagged three Indian Telly Awards for Best Comedy Serial, Best Writer (Ashwin Dhir) and Best Actor (Pankaj Kapoor).

The channel also has a strong current-affairs band beginning from 10.30 pm on weekdays and 10.00 pm on weekends. Programmes during this time band primarily comprise chat shows and a panel discussion titled Khulla Manch with Manoj Raghuvanshi. The chat shows include Kuch Khaas Baatein with Swati Chaturvedi, Swayam with Pratibha Advani, Line of Fire and Court Martial with Karan Thapar and Faces and Names with Vir Sanghvi.

Moreover, the channel intends maintaining its free-to-air (FTA) status with no immediate plans to go pay. "We would prefer to remain free-to-air for at least one year and carefully monitor the CAS scenario," states Adhikari. "In the interim, SABe stands to only gain with increased reach making it a preferred choice for cable operators," he adds. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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