The weekend of 26 January saw Harvest TV—a new English news channel—go live on air in India. Its honeymoon period was short-lived. Just two days later, a few hours into the first business day after the channel’s launch, Harvest TV briefly disappeared from airwaves. It was blacked out on both the platforms it was available on—Airtel’s direct-to-home (DTH) service and cable platform Den Networks.
The channel reappeared a few minutes later, but on a different, downgraded frequency, said Deepak Choudhry, president of Veecon Media and Broadcasting, Harvest’s promoters. And ever since, things have been on a downward spiral.
Harvest TV’s launch was pegged as an important one in the world of television news media. A political news channel rumoured to be backed by some politicians from the Indian National Congress (INC), it launched just ahead of the upcoming general elections. It also marks the television comebacks of veteran journalists like Barkha Dutt and Karan Thapar. But after only a week of its existence, Harvest TV finds itself knee-deep in controversy. It has already received multiple legal notices and government complaints. There is a name issue, a logo problem, an unclear shareholding pattern, and an “alleged” association with Indian National Congress (INC) leader Kapil Sibal.
As of 30 January, the company had been served with three notices from the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry asking it to explain these issues, as well as another legal notice for unauthorised use of a trademark. According to Choudhry, the blackout was the result of the I&B ministry impressing on the channel’s teleport operator Planetcast Media to revert to Harvest TV’s original lower frequency since the channel did not have permission for the upgraded one. Planetcast did not respond to The Ken’s emailed query.
Harvest TV, or HTN News as it is called on digital media, comes from Delhi-based Veecon Media and Broadcasting Private Limited. Incorporated in 2009, Veecon had total revenue of Rs 3.8 crore (~$533,000) in FY18 and runs just one other television channel—a Hindu devotional channel called Kaatyayani TV. Odds are you haven’t heard of Veecon Media. They’ve barely been a blip on the Indian media radar. Harvest TV was meant to be their moment in the sun. But things haven’t panned out as planned.
Everything that Veecon Media has done so far seems rushed. The timing of its launch is hardly a surprise. Launching ahead of the 2019 general elections will give it traction and could serve to bolster the general election campaign of the political party it is rumoured to have ties to.