Television news channels in Punjab added one more member to its ranks last week. PTC News is the fourth such channel to be launched in the state in the past six months.
The 24-hour news and infotainment channel has been launched by Entertainment Television Network (ETN), the company that runs the Punjabi music channel ETC Punjabi.
Rabindra Narayan, president of ETC Punjabi and consultant to PTC, said ETN’s channel was the state’s first “quality” news channel.
“Besides, this is the first time a professional media company has got into news in Punjab,” he added. ETN is promoted by cable industry veteran Jagjit Singh Kohli, who sold ETC’s Hindi music channel to the Zee group a couple of years ago.
Among the local news channels to have hit the small screen in Punjab in the recent past are Channel No 1, launched in December last year, Newstime, launched in October last year, and PBC from the Patiala Broadcasting Company, launched in early January. Most of these channels are operated by local, moneyed agriculturists, some of whom also run educational institutions.
Tejinder Singh, director-cum-chief editor of Channel No 1, said he had a network of 117 reporters. “The channel is available in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Newstime Director Iqbal Singh Ahluwalia, meanwhile, said the channel was popular in Himachal, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, besides Punjab.
It is not difficult to see why people are launching TV channels in the state. “It is a booming consumer market and people in Punjab are big spenders anyway. Cities like Jalandhar and Ludhiana are on the verge of a retail revolution. Clearly, advertising is growing,” said PTC’s Narayan.
It is estimated that the state could generate advertising revenue worth Rs 40 crore a year. “And that is just from private companies. Government advertising, too, is robust,” he said.
Sources in Punjab’s media industry said one of the earliest Punjabi news channels earned roughly Rs 18 crore from government advertisements alone. “That is one of the reasons why so many people decided to jump in without really having a business plan,” said Newstime’s Ahluwalia, who also runs a finance company in Punjab.
He said the cost of running a local news channel was not more than Rs 15 lakh a month while the returns could be much higher.
Most of the news channels “” except Punjab Today, which is over four years old “” sprung up just before the state elections. Sarvajit Kaur, director, Patiala Broadcasting Company, agrees that many channels have political affiliations.
“Cable operators have succumbed to political pressures and blacked out our channel in many cities. But we are now looking at expanding into Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan,” he said.
PTC, meanwhile, is eyeing the Punjabi diaspora across the world. “Zee’s Alpha ETC has done very well in the UK. We do not see why we cannot,” said Narayan.
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