AV Birla group exits Star News

Mumbai: The Star News channel has become a topic of hot debate in the last few days.

Not more than three weeks have passed since the AV Birla group acquired a 25-per cent stake in the Star News Channel and now it appears that the group has offloaded its holding in the news channel. And there is hot speculation as to who has bought Birla's stake.

An AV Birla group spokesperson did not comment on the issue while Star India executives also chose to keep quiet.

Sources in the industry, however, say that in recent times Star TV has become the subject of attack from rival media channels. They allege that Star TV has placed a majority of Star News channel's stake with close associates in an attempt to keep control in the channel by circumventing foreign investment norms.

Indian channels like NDTV, Sahara and Aaj Tak have asked for a level-playing field and have expressed concern over foreign broadcasters such as Star News allegedly 'bypassing procedures'.

Apart from this there are rumours that Star TV has got into the bad books of the government with its opposition to the conditional access system (CAS). The network is being held to be the stumbling block of the government's initiative to implement CAS.

Star is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corporation. Its programmes reach more than 300 million viewers across 53 Asian countries. Its television channels in India include Star Plus, Star World, Vijay, Channel [V], ESPN, Star Sports, Star Gold, Star Movies and Star News.