New entrant may trigger channel war afresh

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM MAY 8. The channel war in Malayalam is all set to hot up with India Vision, the new Malayalam television channel, going on air round-the-clock by mid-August.

Technical tests have been successfully conducted here as well as in Dubai and Abu Dhabi during April. The chief executive of the channel and Public Works Minister, M.K. Muneer, told The Hindu that the picture and sound quality of the channel would more than meet global standards. Trial runs will start towards the end of May, initially for three hours every day.

Since the focus is on `infotainment' and news-based programmes, there would be a paradigm shift in the quality of television programmes soon. About 40 per cent of the fare will be news-based. There is an over-dependence on films and film-based programmes as of now. Repeat telecast of films will make them stale and hence it would not make business sense to buy too many films in future, he said.

A panel headed by M.T.Vasudevan Nair, litterateur, is in charge of programme production. It is with a view to ensure quality that Mr.Vasudevan Nair has been given total freedom in producing the software. A new content mix is also being developed exclusively for the channel, he said.

Dr. Muneer chose to dispel the notion that the channel was being supported by the Indian Union Muslim League. The director board and the panel entrusted with software production were enough proof for the `secular credentials' of the channel, he said.

The initial investment of the public limited company is Rs.85 crores. The channel, which uses the Thaicom transponder, will cover West Asia, Africa as well as the United States where it would be a pay-channel, he said.

Work on the earth station in Kochi would be completed soon and the uplinking process would start in a month's time. The teleport system at the earth station would have the capacity to uplink five other channels too. This facility can be prospectively rented out to other channels which intend to go on air in the near future, Dr.Muneer said.

Regarding the financial viability of the new channel, he said the transponder lease was one of the major projected overheads. . Butthe equipment cost too is expected to come down in the near future.

Of late, television channels have forayed into filmmaking. India Vision too plans to follow the trend and is holding preparatory discussions on this score, Dr.Muneer added.

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