Saturday, January 02, 2010

WorldSpace India silent

WorldSpace India silent

V. Sridhar
Bangalore: WorldSpace, the pioneer in satellite radio broadcasting, went dead at 5 a.m. on the last day of 2009, plunging avid listeners into deep gloom. More than 300 employees of the company were just as shocked by the sudden announcement by the American parent company to suspend operations at short notice. Of these, about 90 are on the content development side of the operations.

Speaking to The Hindu, R. Mahadevan, who was till last week Senior Programme Director, said the content team “is miserable” about being helpless to help loyal customers and music enthusiasts. “We had worked till the last and had even said our goodbyes to listeners,” he said. Unfortunately, these were not broadcast as the acquirer of the company, Liberty Media, had decided to pull the plug on channels beamed to India by the company’s two satellites well before the announced deadline.

Liberty Media, headed by John C. Malone, which acquired a substantial stake in Sirius, the only other satellite radio, is now effectively a global monopoly in the field. Media reports on the internet speculate that Liberty Media sees better opportunities in Latin America and other markets and would therefore like to deploy the WorldSpace satellites to target those markets rather than in India.

Mr. Mahadevan said company employees “have been left to fend for themselves”. “Nor is anybody here in charge of the company in India,” he added ruefully. Since WorldSpace entered into bankruptcy protection proceedings in October 2008, the company’s operations have been controlled by the court in the U.S., he said.

“However, during the last 12 months, the Indian operations had broken even,” he said. WorldSpace India, the fully-owned subsidiary, is only a “content service-providing arm”, he said.

Company sources said the Indian company was neither a party to the decision to shut down, nor was it aware of its own fate till the very last minute.

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