The year 2001 was marred by a series of controversies, starting
with diamond merchant and noted film financier Bharat Shah's arrest
and Ketan Parekh's expose which led to the collapse of the stock
market and the media stocks. B4U's initial public offering (IPO)
plans went for a toss as Shah was to play a prime role in the company.
Then came the accusation against the prevailing ratings system
- the currency advertising industry used to measure the popularity
of television programmes - being rigged, an effort by some organisations
that ultimately fizzled out as they could not back it with adequate
proof. And just as this mudslinging effort continued, the news came
that a unified rating system would emerge after Dutch Communications
giant VNU NV had acquired AC Nielsen. This meant VNU would own TAM
and INTAM, the two companies that were monitoring TV viewership
It was also a dark year with three events spelling disaster: the
earthquake in Gujarat, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the US-led
offensive on Afghanistan. But this was fodder for the news channels
and Aaj Tak gained audiences to become the leading news channel
in the country.
Kerry Packer's dream to expand his base in India ended rather unfortunately
as Doordarshan did not bend to sweeten the commercial terms with
HFCL-Channel Nine. By no stretch of imagination would DD Metro find
somebody to bet Rs 1.2 billion a year for a three-hour prime time
possession on the channel. Packer had done it as an entry strategy,
but hoping that he would repeat it for another year was a little
too much to expect. And with the exit of Packer also ended Balaji
Telefilms' hopes of roping in Channel Nine as a minor equity partner
in the company.
Zee continued to fall and its much-hyped relaunch with 24 shows
initiated by newly inducted chief executive Sandeep Goyal flopped
Star retained its premium leadership position, climbing up the
charts. Sony failed to stem Star's onslaught and its Jeeto Chappar
Phaad Ke, a game show hosted by actor Govinda, managed to create
initial hype but fizzled out fast.
Chandra's attempt at getting Turner International to invest as
an equity partner in Zee may have failed, but he managed to get
a joint venture agreement for distribution. While Zee Telefilms
would hold 76 per cent stake in the distribution company, the balance
26 per cent would be with Turner. Such distribution alliances to
strengthen bouquet offerings to cable operators would prove to be
the trend in future.
The government continued to be hazy on outlining a broadcast policy
that would free foreign media companies from the clutches of regulation
and be attractive for investments. But the government finally tabled
the Convergence Bill which envisaged a super convergence commission
with control of broadcasting as its major plank.