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Star TV set for major revamp, first axe on Laureen Ong
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News Corp. is doing a major restructuring of Star TV, its Asian TV entertainment business based in Hong Kong, which owns and operates Star India Private Limited in India.

The revamp of Star TV is a corporate streamlining move inspired by Fox International Channels (FIC) boss David Haslingden and News Corp.'s European and Asian boss James Murdoch.

Star TV packages 60 regional and national channels in 13 Asian languages and broadcasts in 53 Asian countries. Beyond Hong Kong, it has offices in India, Taiwan, mainland China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the U.S. and the U. K.

As part of the restructuring process, Laureen Ong, chief operating officer (COO), Star TV, who joined the company in May 2007, has been pink-slipped, though her contract runs till May 2010. The News Corp. veteran remains on hand to advise on the transition and there almost certainly will be more layoffs at Star.

Sneaking about the departure of Laureen Ong, Paul Aiello, chief executive officer (CEO), Star TV, says, "Laureen is an experienced and valued media executive. She has been a friend and a mentor to many in the company – we will miss her. She has played a key leadership role in rejuvenating some of our brands and expanding the reach of our popular channels globally."

Ong said, "I feel fortunate to have joined a company as vibrant and progressive as Star and to have worked with so many talented colleagues. It has been an honour for me and I would like to thank everyone for their support and wish them all the best."

In March, News Corp. combined its U.S. film and television production operations into one unit. "By removing barriers between businesses, this restructuring will enable us to better share ideas and resources," Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO, News Corp. said at the time.

There have been further management realignments at News Corp. stateside as a result of Peter Chernin's exit as president and COO at the end of June and the hiring of Chase Carey to fill those roles and assume the deputy chairman title.

The revamp suggests that management of national channels will be devolved to smaller structures in their target markets. In particular, operations in India might be repackaged as locally managed clusters that are closer to their audiences.

Management of regional English language channels may be integrated with that of FIC, with oversight of Star Movies and Star World likely to be the thorniest issues. Fox Movies, which FIC handles in some territories, is not distributed in most of Star's region.

In addition to the global financial collapse, Star India has been hit by the plunging advertising market and competitive challenges in India and investment in new regional channels. Details might be thrashed out this week during a series of internal meetings involving top management flown to Hong Kong from India and other countries.

It is not clear how much the restructuring will affect Star India's joint ventures (JVs), which range from a 50 per cent stake each in Mumbai-based Digital Entertainment Networks (DEN) and a 50 per cent interest in Twentieth Century Fox to produce world-class local-language films in India for worldwide distribution.

In India, Star also has an 81:19 per cent JV with Jupiter Entertainment Ventures in the name of Star Jupiter; a 26 per cent stake in Media Content and Communications Services (MCCS), which operates Star News, Star Ananada and Star Majha; 22.2 per cent stake in Hathway Cable, which was established by the Rajan Raheja Group and a 20 per cent stake in Tata Sky Ltd, which is a JV with the Tata Group and Temasek.

Star also has minority holdings in channels including Channel V Thailand; ANTV in Indonesia; and Phoenix, a Mandarin-language news and entertainment group based in Hong Kong. In Fortune Star, it owns one of the world's biggest Chinese-language film libraries.

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