NEW DELHI — The Indian government has allowed Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV to continue broadcasting its 24-hours news channel for another week pending completion of an inquiry into its equity structure.
The government wants more details about the ownership of a company floated by Star to handle its uplinking operations but will allow Star to continue broadcasting until midnight Wednesday.
The Times of India quoted a government official as saying some member companies of the uplinking group, Media Content and Communications Services (MCCS), appeared to be owned by Star.
“We know little about them — they seem to be puffed up from nowhere,” the unnamed official said.
In April, the Indian cabinet capped foreign direct investment in news channels at 26% and gave Hong Kong-based Star Television News three months to bring its equity down from 49%. Star then distributed 74% of the equity in MCCS among seven individuals.
Seth biggest stakeholder
One, Indian cement tycoon Kumar Mangalam Birla, has reportedly sold his 25% holding to ad exec Suhel Seth, making Seth the biggest stakeholder with 30%.
Hemendra Kothari, who owns another 25% stake in MCCS, is Star’s merchant banker.
Except for 5% in the hands of corporate entity Balaji Telefilms, most of the stock has been distributed among professionals close to Star.
The stakes for Star are high — since its launch two months ago, Star News has narrowed the gap with market leader Aajtak in Hindi news.
According to the latest ratings, Star’s market share has increased from 20% to 30% among higher-income viewers, while Aajtak’s share has dropped from 51% to 37%.