Up in the air: Sun TV and Sakshi TV to Kairali, channels linked to politicians

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The BJP is the latest to announce the launch of a news channel in Tamil Nadu, where major parties such as the DMK and the AIADMK are already associated with channels.

The most popular is Sun TV, which is owned by DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran’s elder brother Kalanidhi, while the DMK directly runs Kalaignar Seithigal. The AIADMK, led by Edappadi K Palaniswami, directly controls News J while the family of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s aide Sasikala runs Jaya TV whose news division is Jaya Plus. News J was established when the AIADMK leadership was unable to seize control of Jaya TV after Sasikala and her family were expelled from the party in 2017. Mega 24 is viewed as the Congress’s channel as it was launched by veteran party leader and former Union Minister K V Thangkabalu.

But, Tamil Nadu is not the only state where political parties or leaders either own news channels or are associated with them.

Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s company Indira Television Ltd launched Telugu TV channel Sakshi TV in March 2009. The company is currently run by Jagan Mohan’s wife Y S Bharathi Reddy.

The CBI filed chargesheets in March 2012 that said the investments made by various companies in Sakshi Group, including in Jagati Publications Ltd under which the Telugu daily Sakshi was launched in March 2008, were bribes. The agency said the money was “in a quid pro quo arrangement by those who received benefits” from the government of former CM and Jagan Mohan’s father Y S Rajashekara Reddy.

Haryana

Rajya Sabha MP Kartikeya Sharma, the son of former Union Minister Venod Sharma, established the iTV network in 2007 through which he runs various news channels.

A businessman and a media proprietor by profession, Kartikeya Sharma contested the Rajya Sabha elections from Haryana as an Independent candidate last June. With the backing of the ruling alliance of the BJP and the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), he made it to the Upper House by defeating Congress heavyweight Ajay Maken.

iTV network owns the English news channel NewsX. Its regional divisions such as India News Haryana, India News Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh, India News Punjab and India News Uttar Pradesh-Uttarakhand have gained dominance in Hindi-speaking areas. The network owns three national news channels, two newspapers, five regional news channels, and two online portals in total. It has over 3,000 employees. Kartikeya also has stakes in several five-star hotels in Gurgaon, Delhi, Chandigarh, and Punjab.

In 2021, his father floated the Haryana Jan Chetna Party. Kartikeya was its member before joining the BJP. He is married to Aishwarya Sharma, the daughter of former Haryana Vidhan Sabha Speaker Kuldeep Sharma of the Congress.

Karnataka

Suvarna News, Kasthuri News 24, and Dighvijay News are among the news channels in Karnataka that are either owned by or linked to politicians.

Suvarna, the second 24×7 news channel in the state, was launched in 2008. It is part of the Asianet News Network, which is a subsidiary of Jupiter Capital Private Limited. Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar is a majority shareholder in Jupiter Capital.

Chandrasekhar had also invested in Republic TV but resigned as the board director of ARG Outlier Asianet News Private Limited, which runs the news channel, in 2018 after joining the BJP. In 2019, Asianet diluted its shares in Republic TV and became a minority shareholder.

Launched in 2011, Kasthuri News 24 is owned by Janata Dal (Secular) MLA Anitha Kumaraswamy who is married to former CM H D Kumaraswamy. This is Anitha’s second media venture after entertainment channel Kasthuri TV.

Dighvijay News is part of the media empire of businessman Vijay Sankeshwar. Elected to the Lok Sabha thrice from the BJP in the 1990s, Sankeshwar quit the party briefly before rejoining it in 2014. He also owns the Kannada daily Vijayavani.

Odisha

Although no political party in the state directly runs a TV channel, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLAs Sanjib Kumar Mallick and Susant Kumar Rout are on the board of Sakala Media Private Ltd that operates the government-leaning channel Nandighosha TV.

Jagi Mangat Panda who is married to BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda runs a popular channel called Odisha TV (OTV).

Kerala

Popular channel Jaihind TV channel is backed by the state Congress, with former Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala serving as the chairperson of Bharat Broadcasting Network Limited that owns the channel.

Kairali TV and People’s TV are owned by Malayalam Communications Limited, which has the backing of the CPI(M). Party leaders own a major portion of the shares of the company. Janam TV, the latest entrant in the state’s mediascape, is known to lean towards the Sangh Parivar.

Top sources in the BJP have told The Indian Express that BJP’s channel in Tamil Nadu “will be an extension of Janam TV and that the Tamil channel’s name will also most likely be the same”.

(With inputs from ENS Chennai, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, and Thiruvananthapuram)