A story from moneycontrol.com, a news portal run by the Network18 media group, drew an unusually sharp reaction from Raghav Bahl, one of the pioneers of television news broadcasting in India who now operates Quintillion Media Pvt Ltd.
In an message to his employees, Bahl attributed the report — titled “Bloomberg’s India Venture with Raghav Bahl’s Quint all set to collapse” — to what he called nervousness at the increasing possibility the government may be forced to issue a broadcasting license to Quintillion Media.
“They have seen the enormous/pioneering success of our digital franchise,” he said in his message to his employees, adding that his company is all set to conquer the broadcast TV news market as well.
Bahl’s application for a broadcasting license for starting a business news channel has been kept pending by the central government for three years.
Bahl wanted to start a channel, Bloomberg Quint, that would have competed directly with CNBC TV18 — the crown jewel in the news operations of the Network18 Group, controlled by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani.
However, with the government sitting on his application, Bahl’s project has been delayed well beyond expectations, forcing the entrepreneur to approach the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal.
According to reports, the government has been subjected to some sharp questioning by the TDSAT, which may ask it to issue of a license to Bahl.
In a somewhat similar license dispute, TDSAT had overruled the government’s objections to allow Harvest TV to be renamed as Tiranga TV. The government had kept the name-change pending for years, given Tiranga TV’s alleged proximity to opposition party Indian National Congress.
Business news television is more-or-less a winner-takes-all market due to the limited number of viewers and ad revenue.
It is believed that the market can only sustain only one profitable player. Network18 — which was also founded by Bahl — has been that player since there were profits to be made in the business.
An attempt to dislodge CNBC-TV18, the market leader, by the Times Group, has not been as successful as many expected.
However, a TDSAT order directing the government to issue a license to Bloomberg Quint could raise new challenges for CNBC-TV18.
Separately, Bloomberg News — owned by US Presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg — recently reported that the Times Group was seeking to appoint advisers on a deal to acquire Network18’s news operations.
The news, which was reported over the weekend, has been denied by Times Group.