2001 - MARRED BY CONTROVERSIES
 

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 in India.

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 miserably.

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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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