A new television news channel, Harvest TV, backed and bankrolled by senior Congress leader, Kapil Sibal, among others, is set to be launched on 26 January. The channel is owned by Veecon Media that already has new channel licenses in English, Hindi and other regional languages. The licenses were issued during the previous UPA regime.
Former NDTV Journalist Barkha Dutt, who is said to be playing a lead role in conceptualising the channel, is expected to anchor a prime show. Current affairs presenter Karan Thapar has also been roped in. Several other TV journalists, who are close to the Congress leadership, are expected to join the channel. Rajdeep Sardesai is also being persuaded to hop on to the Harvest TV bandwagon.
According to sources who are privy to the happenings inside the proposed TV channel, Sardesai has not yet made up his mind to join the venture as he may like to maintain his reputation as an ‘independent voice’ despite his pro-Congress inclinations.
The news regarding launch of Harvest TV was first reported by portal Pgurus and confirmed yesterday (18 January) by The Print, a digital outfit owned by Shekhar Gupta, who was formerly a business collaborator of Barkha Dutt.
This is not the first foray of Kapil Sibal in to the media sector. Sibal played an instrumental role in establishing the Tehelka Magazine, which gained notoriety for its barely concealed hitjobs targeted at BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and later imploded over tainted financial dealings and a botched attempt by the magazine founder Tarun Tejpal and its then editor Shoma Chaudhury to suppress rape accusations against Tejpal by one of its own junior employees. Tejpal, who was later arrested and imprisoned on the charges of rape, is still known to enjoy close proximity to Sibal.
According to the Pgurus report, apart from Sibal, Karnataka Congress strongman D K Shivakumar, billionaire businessman Naveen Jindal, who is also a former Congress MP and former Union Finance Minister P.Chidambaram, who is waging an ongoing legal battle to prevent his imminent arrest in corruption cases, are also involved in supporting this TV venture.
Veecon is also set to start a Hindi channel after the launch of its English news channel. According to Pgurus, the Hindi channel is likely to feature senior Hindi journalist Punya Prasun Bajpai, who exited ABP Channel recently. It is learnt that channel owners are in negotiations with Ravish Kumar Pandey of NDTV to take charge as the main anchor of the Hindi version of Harvest TV. Former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Ashutosh may also join the channel.
Senior Congress leaders claim that Harvest TV is an independent media venture but does enjoy the blessing of the party is it required to counter the influence of Republic TV of Arnab Goswami, which is alleged to have a pro-BJP tilt.