Raghav Bahl finally gets a date for TV license hearing

Bloomberg Quint has been waiting for a TV licence for 3 years

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has assured an industry disputes tribunal that it will take a decision on the name-change application of Horizon Satellite Services, a unit of Raghav Bahl-led Quintillion Business Media Private Limited (QBM), by December 25.

Quintillion Business Media has been trying to get its channel renamed as Bloomberg Quint to launch a business news channel to compete with the likes of CNBC TV18 and ET Now.

Quintillion Business Media is a joint venture between Raghav Bahl, founder of Network18 media group, and global news and information giant Bloomberg.

Horizon Satellite Services holds two news channel licenses, and was acquired by Quintillion Business Media Private Ltd after the latter’s application for new licenses failed to hit target. Bahl’s company has been trying to get a license to start its business channels for the last three years, but the government has neither said yes nor no to its application.

Bahl was the chairman of Network18 media group until he was ejected by Reliance Group, controlled by India’s richest person Mukesh Ambani, in 2014.

Ever since he was ejected from the company he founded, Bahl has been trying to get back into the TV news market, and tied up with Bloomberg to launch business channels in April 2016.

The new company applied for a TV license in the same year. However, the process, which normally takes only a few weeks for most players, dragged on for years, forcing Bahl to explore other options.

One such option, which was successfully used by Congress leader Kapil Sibal, was to acquire an existing news channel and rebrand it.

However, like in the case of Harvest TV, which was used to launch Tiranga TV a year ago, the ministry has been sitting on Horizon’s application for some time.

Like in case of Harvest TV, Horizon too was forced to approach the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal or TDSAT, and like in the earlier case, the tribunal pulled up the government for the delay in processing the name-change application.

In its last hearing a week ago, the TDSAT has threatened that any further delays on the part of the government to consider the name change application will result in the tribunal itself hearing the application and issuing an order.

In response, the government today reassured the tribunal that it will take a final decision in the matter by December 25.

“Additional Solicitor General has further submitted that a decision on the relevant matters shall be taken and communicated to the petitioner on or before 25.12.2019,” Tribunal noted in its order on Monday.

In case the government refuses the name change application, the tribunal pointed out, Bahl’s company can seek legal remedy.

“Needless to say that it will be open for the petitioner to pursue its remedies in accordance with law, if petitioner is not satisfied with the order,” it noted.

In the earlier case of Harvest TV, the ministry had finally informed that it would not allow the name change application to ‘Tiranga TV’ as Tiranga or Tricolor was another name for the Indian flag.

However, the objection was struck down by TDSAT on the grounds that the name Tiranga did not enjoy any special protection under Indian laws.

In case of Horizon, the I&B ministry’s objections are likely to center around the acquisition of the company by Quintillion Business Media.

The TDSAT will hear the matter next on January 14.