Friday, 12 August, 2022
HomeIndia‘Insensitivity’ to govt or financial trouble — why news channel Swaraj Express...

‘Insensitivity’ to govt or financial trouble — why news channel Swaraj Express went off air

Channel’s operations & licence are owned by different entities, and founder Sappal says he wonders why the licence holder ‘unilaterally’ stopped airing it.

Text Size:

New Delhi: Swaraj Express, a less than two-year-old Hindi news channel launched by former Rajya Sabha TV CEO Gurdeep Singh Sappal, shut operations and went off the air on 1 September.

The channel stopped airing fresh content from 9 August, and was airing pre-recorded content on the platforms which were carrying it. DTH platform Tata Sky told ThePrint that Swaraj Express had been discontinued from 1 September “for contractual reasons”.

The reason, sources in the channel told ThePrint, is that the company that owns the licence “unilaterally” decided to sever ties with Swaraj Express “without citing a reason”. The channel, which has 150 employees, is now looking to partner with other licence holders to stay afloat in the news media market.

Sappal told ThePrint that the channel and licence owner Yash Satellite Industries Pvt Ltd had been “renegotiating” on certain issues for a couple of weeks before the latter decided to call off the partnership.

Sappal said the licence holder had expressed displeasure at what it perceived as “insensitivity” to the government in the content of the channel, and that while Swaraj Express’ revenues had been affected because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, like most other channels, financial troubles were not the reason it had gone off the air.

“The fact is that neither (the perceived insensitivity to the government), nor the claims of outstanding dues, are true. So I still wonder why the channel was abruptly and unilaterally stopped by the licence owner, endangering the employment of so many journalists during Covid times,” he said.

“It is difficult to run a channel with independent editorial policy these days. But certainly, this is not the end.”


Also read: Jamia centre at heart of Sudarshan News ‘UPSC jihad’ row has coached 500+ govt officers


Licence holder and channel directors

The licence under which Swaraj Express was running is owned by Yash Satellite Industries Private Limited. It has run at least two other channels in the past — News Time 24×7 and Jansandesh Plus — according to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting documents accessed by ThePrint.

While industry sources indicated the decision could be because of Swaraj Express’ liabilities, Tarun Jain, director Yash Satellite Industries, did not respond to repeated calls and messages asking him why the channel was taken off the air. An email sent to him Thursday, 10 September, also remained unanswered.

Swaraj Express itself is owned by Doubletick Media Private Limited, and came into existence in November 2018. Sappal and Siddharth Kapoor are the directors of the company, while former RSTV journalist Amrita Rai was its managing editor, but quit last year.

ThePrint also tried to reach Siddharth Kapoor through calls and text messages for his comment on the channel going off the air, but there was no response.

Rai was initially also a director in the company, but later stepped down. She is the wife of senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh.

Sappal also runs a separate web channel called Hind Kisan, focusing on rural India, and an English news website newsplatform.in.

He was officer on special duty to former Vice-President of India Hamid Ansari, and is credited with conceptualising and establishing RSTV in 2011, which is owned and run by the upper house of Parliament. He resigned from RSTV in 2017.

Last year, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat had issued a notice to Sappal, regarding the production of a movie Raag Desh during his time in office, after a one-member inquiry committee headed by its secretary, Dr P.P.K. Ramacharyulu, ruled that RSTV went beyond its mandate to make it. Sappal had termed the inquiry “bogus”.

According to Sappal, after he replied to the notice in May 2019, RSTV did not respond, and no further action was taken. He insisted that after about three and a half years of his resignation as RSTV CEO, there is yet not a single complaint against him, nor has any action ever been taken.

Owners under EOW scanner

Financial data accessed from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs shows that Siddharth Kapoor’s father Sunil Kapoor and other family members are the only shareholders in Doubletick. A separate company called Total Diagnostics Private Limited holds the maximum shares for Doubletick, and is owned by Kapoor family members.

Sunil Kapoor is said to be close to Digvijaya Singh, and is the chairman of the RKDF Education Society, which runs the Ram Krishna Dharmarth Foundation University, a private university in Bhopal.

Singh, Kapoor and former Madhya Pradesh technical education minister Raja Pateriya have been under the scanner of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) which had registered cases against them under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and the IPC with a case involving admission of students in the RKDF Engineering College.

Doubletick’s only available balance sheet is for 2018-19, and showed Swaraj Express had revenues of Rs 36 lakh and expenses of Rs 33 lakh, and a profit of about Rs 3 lakh in one year.

The financial details show the promoters invested Rs 23 crore in the company. Its current liabilities are Rs 3.33 crore, but assets are worth Rs 6.67 crore. It also has fixed assets of Rs 20.08 crore.

Legal notice by employee

Doubletick was recently served a legal notice by a former employee who claimed he wasn’t paid his dues for months.

The notice, a copy of which has been accessed by the ThePrint, states: “It is apprehended that to ease out the financial burden, the company is looking for soft targets and compelling the employees to resign.”

Asked about the legal notice, Sappal said the employee’s contract was terminated on account of failure to produce the certificates of his educational qualifications, failure to provide proof of earlier employment and non-performance.

“His legal notice is being duly replied to,” he said.


Also read: Stop showing Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV, it ‘insulted’ Uddhav — Sena tells cable operators


 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism

1 COMMENT

  1. Ahh…

    Is that the reason why I tried raising the issue, but nobody ever cared to engage: Exhibit A: https://twitter.com/maazkalim/status/1295832667225808898
    Exhibit B: https://ibb.co/yhb5bx8

    I dunno what’s exactly the thing but in the day-&-age when dumb-masses( towards the “LW” side) are just hailing NDTV® not just as a lodestar, but even lone-star..
    And one more thing, TATA|sky™ has informed you incorrectly. Quite the same like the only other satellite [pay-]TV platform that carried it, airtel® | digital (TV)™, kept postponing its delisting-/removal-date more than twice[ leading to about 2-months delayed execution than originally-announced]. And here, they first started pushing the scrolling-notice to viewers about 10 days from your reported date of content-recycling and as reported in my originally-researched material, switched to the standard, interactive translucent black-bar notice[ which remains static, apart from its interactivity]. The latter is clearly substantiable. So whilst the original-notice did state the date as reported, it was later changed to 4[th of] September, 2020.
    I dunno why there’s a deadline for fact-correction in the ‘pop-Interweb’, new-age Journalism standards..
    But I sincerely do hope that it’s not “too-late”.

    P.S. Ahh.. I already posted my reply twice( a single AMP™ and conventional route, each), but you haven’t approved it. I wonder why?

    Is it because your arbitrariness about “the F-bomb” has kicked-in yet a-gain?

    Why? Simply because the story is about a conventional TV channel, so I’m not allowed to say things deemed “un-Sanskārī“, irrespective of context?

Comments are closed.

Most Popular

×