The West Bengal government is moving to take over two city-based television channels — Tara News and Tara Muzik — both of which are facing closure in the wake of the multi-crore scam in collective investment schemes involving their owner, the Saradha Group.
A section of the employees refused to accept a closure notice served on them in mid-April and are presently keeping the channels on air.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said an ex-gratia payment of Rs.16,000 would be made to the 168 employees of the two channels for the month. The takeover decision follows an appeal by the employees that the government intervene. It was on “humanitarian grounds” that Rs.26 lakh had been provided to the two channels last month from the sales proceeds of her paintings, Ms. Banerjee said.
The move would “help the journalists concerned to overcome a major setback” with the owners deciding to close down the organisations, the Chief Minister said.
Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, Surya Kanta Mishra, said the move was no solution to the problem at hand.
Raising doubts over the legality of the move, he also pointed out that there were matters related to principle. Several other media organisations belonging to the Saradha Group had also closed down or been run irregularly; what would their fate be, he asked.
What should be ensured is that the interests of the employees and the depositors investing in the company’s ponzi schemes are taken care of with the funds available from the auctioning of its properties by the State government, Dr. Mishra asserted. The proposed move is significant against the backdrop of criticism that Ms. Banerjee has frequently aimed at a section of the electronic media of being biased against her government.