Soni squashes Anil Ambani’s news dreams

The Anil Ambani group got approvals for starting 18 TV channels in 2008, even as applications for starting another 34 channels are pending with the government, according to data from the ministry of information and broadcasting.

The ministry has kept pending all the applications tendered by Ambani for starting news channels, while his applications for starting entertainment channels have been granted.

Besides Ambani, the Raghav Behl’s TV18 and Mahuaa TV are other players with big plans in the Indian TV sector.

A total of 361 channels are pending with the ministry seeking clearance, the ministry said. In comparison, it issued 29 approvals so far this year, 98 in 2010 and 81 in 2009. In 2008, a total of 159 channels were given permissions.

Anil Ambani’s BIG group was the biggest casualty of the red-tape associated with issuing TV channel permits. Unlike other groups that await clearance, such as TV18, Zee and Mahuaa, Ambani’s applications date back to 2008 while the others applied in 2010 or this year.

Most of the clearances that have already been issued to the BIG group relate to channels for health, music, spirituality and hollywood.

The news channels that have been held back are those that related to city-specific or regional language news, sports news, weather news etc.. Going by the applications kept pending, the Junior Ambani wants to start news channels in nearly all the regional langauges of India as well as three business news channels in Hindi, English and Gujarati.

Separate applications have been kept pending for the launch of “Bhaskar news” channels, including an English News channel, a Hindi News Channel, a Punjabi News Channel etc., indicating possible interest from the Dainik Bhaskar group.

Asked how long the approval process takes, the ministry said “no fixed time frame” can be given as clearances are also required from other ministries.