Home >Home-page >NewsX makes news even before launch

NewsX, the much anticipated news channel from the INX stable, is yet to be launched but it is already making news. The past couple of weeks have seen the channel dealing with a range of issues, including an alleged delay in its launch, and rumours of the exit of its chief executive.

Questions have also been raised about the performance of 9X, INX’s general entertainment channel.

Going into the weekend, the big question was whether the meeting of the investors in the venture, to be held in Jodhpur on 21 January, would address some of these issues.

NewsX is part of INX News Pvt. Ltd, itself a majority-owned subsidiary of INX Media Pvt. Ltd (of which 9X is a part), which is controlled by Indrani and Peter Mukerjea. Interest in the two companies isn’t surprising: Peter Mukerjea was the former head of Star India Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of News Corp. Mukerjea, under the terms of his employment with Star, could not work for or start a competing venture for some time after his departure from the company and INX was promoted by his wife Indrani Mukerjea.

The number game (Graphic)

Peter Mukerjea is chairman of INX Media and INX News is chaired by Indrani Mukerjea, who is also the CEO of 9X. Interest in NewsX also stems from the fact that it is headed by Vir Sanghvi, one of the country’s best-known journalists.

Many of the issues aired by people associated with the company or close to Sanghvi or Indrani Mukerjea have to do with the relationship between the CEO and the chairman, and their efforts to jockey for control. And in the past few days, spin doctors associated with Sanghvi and Mukerjea have been busy, with reporters being fed various versions of the story.

Earlier this week, one such story on “inordinate and avoidable" delays in the launch of NewsX surfaced on one Internet media outlet, while reporting on rumours of Sanghvi exiting the company quoted him as saying: “This is utter and complete nonsense. I have been appointed by the investors and the INX News Board to produce a world-class news channel, and I am going to do that."

Associates of Sanghvi, who do not wish to be identified, said he was not being allowed to function independently by Indrani Mukerjea and that Vynsley Fernandes had been appointed as the channel’s chief operating officer in November by Indrani and Peter Mukerjea in an effort to do just this. The associates also claimed that investors such as Temasek Holdings and New Silk Route were extremely unhappy with the underperformance of the general entertainment channel and they held the channel’s CEO responsible for it.

9X was launched in October 2007.

Temasek managing director Manish Kejriwal could not be reached over phone despite several attempts and an email sent to him remained unanswered.

Associates of Indrani Mukerjea in turn allege that investors are unhappy with Sanghvi because of repeated delays and over-expenditure in the launch of the news channel.

Some of these allegations and counter-allegations do not ring true, say experts. “Broadcast is a long-term game. Two months is too short a time to judge a channel’s performance even if it has been launched by a veteran," said a media expert not wanting to be named, referring to 9X .

9X’s television rating points (TRPs or the percentage of viewers watching a programme at a given time) are nothing to write home about. According to data from Audience Measurement and Analytics Ltd, a Mumbai-based television audience measurement company, between 11 December 2007 and 17 January 2008, the channel’s TRPs hovered between 1 and 7.

Against this, the established channels such as Star Plus and Zee TV have TRPs between 22 and 60. And weaker rivals such as SAB have TRPs between 1 and 5.

Meanwhile, by Friday, associates of Sanghvi were claiming the Jodhpur meeting would end with the investors asking Indrani Mukerjea to step down from the posts she held. And associates of Indrani Mukerjea were claiming Sanghvi would be asked to step down.

Peter Mukerjea could not be reached for comment.

Two executives at INX said that the 21 January meeting of investors would be attended by representatives of the investors in the two companies but not Sanghvi.

Vir Sanghvi is the advisory editorial director for the Hindustan Times and a columnist for Lounge, the Saturday magazine of Mint. Both Mint and the Hindustan Times are published by HT Media Ltd.

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