GRANTED LICENCE: Sat Maharaj

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Sat hopes to launch first Hindu network

By Asha Javeed asha.javeed@trinidadexpress.com

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), under its company the Hindu Broadcasting Network, has been granted a television licence by the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT).

However, it is not a free-to-air licence but rather one to operate only on cable TV networks.

Sat Maharaj, secretary general of the SDMS, yesterday confirmed that the SDMS has been invited by TATT to sign the documents for the licence concession.

Maharaj said he hoped to launch the country's first Hindu network, Jaagriti TV, in the next three to four months.

He said the country already had an Islamic station, the Islamic Broadcasting Network (IBN) operated by Inshan Ishmael and a Catholic station on cable TV network Flow.

He noted that while there were Indian channels, there was no Hindu channel on the network to cater for the large religious base of practising Hindus.

"While it will be Hindu oriented, it cannot be isolated from international news," said Maharaj in a telephone interview yesterday.

He said the station would adhere to the same protocol which its radio station Radio Jaagriti followed- there will no advertising of alcohol, no advertising of meat or meat products and no advertising of fetes or parties.

"We want to propogate the Hindu way of life," said Maharaj.

He said the station would be located on the same compound with Radio Jaagriti at Pasea, Tunapuna. Maharaj noted that when the building was being constructed, it was done with the television aspect in mind.

"The space is already outfitted. Five years ago we built an extra room for a television station," he said.

Maharaj said they were already talking to several people about programming and content but the format will be heavily themed on religion. He identified the news aspect as the most expensive venture and was hoping to source a simulcast from another station.

"As soon as we have assembled all the machinery together, we will start. We need to recruit about eight to ten people," he said.

Former executive at Radio Jaagriti and current Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj said yesterday the Maha Sabha applied for a television licence in 2007 shortly after it was awarded a radio licence in 2006.

The SDMS successfully fought a six-year battle against the State for a radio licence before a Privy Council Judgement ordered the state to grant it to the Hindu group.

Radio Jaagriti was launched in November 2006.

In 2009, the State was ordered to pay close to $3 million in damages to the SDMS for its unequal treatment and delay in granting it a radio broadcasting licence.

In May, the SDMS launched a bi-monthly magazine "Mukdar" to be distributed to SDMS schools and temples.

"The vision of the Maha Sabha and its communications arm is to provide a network that accommodates and facilitates the Hindu in the new world reality," Maharaj said at the time.

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