Bombay Packer: Indian TV buy mulled

SYDNEY – Aussie media mogul Kerry Packer is said to mulling a $150 million investment in India’s powerful state-owned TV web, Doordarshan.

According to a report in Rupert Murdoch’s The Weekend Australian, sources in Bombay and New Delhi said Packer is eyeing a 49% stake in Doordarshan’s third channel, DD3.

Other suitors

They also said Packer is not alone: Murdoch’s Star TV and Ted Turner’s CNN are also poised to submit bids if the government proceeds with the sell-off.

Launched in 1995, DD3 is an English-lingo service aimed at upper-income residents of India’s major cities. It suffers from lack of cash and ratings, prompting the government to consider selling part to foreign interests.

While more than 40 satellite channels compete for about 60 million cable viewers in India, Doordarshan’s terrestrial network enjoys access to about 300 million viewers, a lucrative market for whatever party ends up relaunching DD3.

Interlopers suspect

Before a selloff can happen, India’s parliament will have to pass a new broadcasting law governing the conduct of private webs and setting limits on foreign involvement in the media. The latter is a particularly sensitive subject in India.

In the last two years, Packer has systematically boosted his overseas TV interests, including program-sharing pacts with Chinese national broadcaster China Central Television and Vietnam’s Hanoi Radio & TV.

The Aussie tycoon is also bidding for a new TV license in South Africa that is expected to be issued later this year.

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