Home >Politics >Policy >Congress might soon join the list of political parties owning news channels

New Delhi: The Congress party may well soon have a news channel. This, after party leader and former minister AK Antony on Tuesday acknowledged that it was “lagging behind in new-age communication systems, and is not able to catch the limelight in comparison to other parties."

The idea of a news channel to reach the masses comes in the wake of several electoral defeats faced by the party last year, most prominently the general election, where the leading party of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was reduced to a mere 44 seats in the Lok Sabha. Subsequently, the party lost power in the states like Maharashtra and Haryana, where it led the government for several terms.

If and when the Congress launches its new television channel, it won’t be the party’s first foray in television news. In August 2007, it launched Jaihind TV in Kerala as part of a pilot programme to counter its critics, and spread its ideologies among the masses.

It is also not the first time the party has mulled over the launch of a national news channel. Four years ago, there were reports that the Congress was keen to extend its Jaihind experiment to the national level, and states like Rajasthan and Maharashtra, where it was the ruling party.

In India, political ownership of news media is not a new phenomenon. Several regional parties (and party-affiliated individuals) own newspapers, television channels, and digital entities that they primarily use for propaganda purposes. The phenomenon is particularly prevalent in the South, where almost every political party has, over the years, invested in a media vehicle to reach out to its voter base and beyond.

Here’s a list of media (mostly news) channels owned by political parties:

Jaya TV—Launched in 1999, the Jaya TV network is owned and managed by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) members and associates of party supremo and Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa. The channel itself is named after Jayalalithaa, and its logo resembles the official symbol of the AIADMK i.e. two leaves.

Sun TV—Among the oldest media congolomerates in the South, the Sun Group was founded in 1993 and has cross-media interests including radio, television and newspaper. The company is owned by Kalanithi Maran, son of late Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader and union minister Murasoli Maran. Murasoli Maran is the nephew of M Karunanidhi, who heads the DMK. Though Sun TV is not owned directly by the DMK, it is considered to be the mouthpiece of the party.

Kalaignar TV—Kalaignar TV was launched in 2007 amidst differences between the Karunanidhi family and the Marans. The channel is directly owned by members of Karunanidhi’s family, including his wife Dayalu Ammal and daughter Kanimozhi.

Captain TV—Launched in April 2010, Captain TV is owned and controlled by the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), which made its debut in the 2006 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. The DMDK is led by Vijayakanth, a popular Tamil actor, who goes by the moniker of “Captain".

Makkal TV—Another party-owned channel in Tamil Nadu, Makkal TV was founded in 2006 by S Ramadoss, the chief of the regional party, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). The PMK is known to champion the cause of a backward caste community in Tamil Nadu, the Vanniyars.

Sakshi TV—Among the first channels to openly support the Congress party in undivided Andhra Pradesh, Sakshi TV was launched in March 2009, just ahead of the assembly elections in the state. The television channel is currently headed by Y.S. Bharati Reddy, who happens to be YSR Congress leader Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s wife.

T News—Owned by the K. Chandrashekhar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), T News was launched in April 2011, at the peak of the Telangana movement in undivided Andhra Pradesh. In June that year, the party also launched a Telugu-language daily—Namasthe Telangana, which it used effectively to propagate its stand on the Telangana issue.

Yuva TV—The ruling party at the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2012 launched Yuva TV, an internet news television channel. The objective of an internet TV channel was to reach out to the tech-savvy youth, who were also potential voters in the general elections that followed two years later.

Kolkata TV—Kolkata TV was launched by SST Media in 2006. However, in 2009, the Trinamool Congress, then the leading opposition party in West Bengal, wrested control of the news channel through Kaustuv Ray, a Kolkata-based entrepreneur. Kolkata TV was among the most watched news channel in Bengal at the time of its takeover. The party, in May 2013 also took control of two newspapers—Kalom and Azad Hind. It also runs a news weekly, Jago Bangla.

24 Ghanta—The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M) owns two television channels in West Bengal. Both channels have seen investment from the Essel Group, which also owns Zee Entertainment. 24 Ghanta, the news channel, was launched in 2006 and is run by Avik Dutta, the assistant editor of the party’s mouthpiece Ganashakti.

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