Failure to get access to cable TV carriage by the leading operator in Punjab has claimed another new channel as victim. Punjabi news channel ABP Sanjha announced to cease operations on Wednesday evening, affecting 200 employees. Management of the channel, a part of the Anandabazar Patrika group that runs leading channels including ABP News in Hindi, cited the virtual blackout as the primary reason for the shutdown.
It came suddenly for the staff, including around 100 editorial employees, who reached office like any other day. In the morning, all reporters and camerapersons were asked to deposit their equipment. This was followed by a team led by the national human resource department head of the channel, Satyakki Bhattacharya, gathering the staff at the office in Phase 8, Industrial Area, SAS Nagar, and announcing the pack-up. Bhattacharya announced three months’ salary for the staff to be let off.
Sources revealed that he said they could not get their channel carried by Fastway Transmissions Private Limited, which covers around 75% of the cable network in Punjab. Citing the shutdown as an outcome, he also told the staff that even if they ran the channel through the digital direct-to-home (DTH) network, they won't be able to sustain it.
Bhattacharya also said that the top management of ABP group from Delhi had approached Punjab’s SAD-BJP government for help but nothing came of that.
The channel had started recruitment at the end of 2012 and began technical training for staffers in February 2013. But effectively it never went on air due to the virtual blackout. For around a year and a half now, the channel was trying to sustain itself through video-sharing websites like YouTube.
When contacted, Jagwinder Patial, senior editor of ABP News who was heading Sanjha operations in Chandigarh, said he was not authorised to comment on the issue. Bhattacharya, who has the designation of chief people officer in the group, didn't take calls despite repeated attempts.
A channel named Day and Night News had also severely scaled down its operations last year citing the same reason.
However, Fastway’s managing director Naval Kapoor refused to comment on the matter, saying that he was in a meeting and could not talk till the next day.