One thing that Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India – recently honoured as IMPACT Person of the Decade - values highly is the unstinted trust and support of his bosses at 21st Century Fox, the legendary Rupert Murdoch, founder and Chairman of global media holding companies News Corp and 21st Century Fox and his son, James R Murdoch, Co-Chief Operating Officer, 21st Century Fox.
In a video message, Murdoch Jr told exchange4media, “Uday is really driven by a belief in communication and a belief that media and story-telling can make a positive difference. He really brings that to his life and his work every day. We are enormously proud of Uday for being named the IMPACT Person of the Decade; it is a great honour for him and one that he richly deserves. He has a sense of zeal and also a creativity and judgement that is perhaps unique in our community. And that really shows in the impact that he is able to make.”
Commenting on Star’s success in India’s highly competitive media sector, Murdoch said, “Star has always been a great competitor and a great innovator and under Uday’s leadership, it has really taken that to new levels.” Terming the Indian marketplace “as dynamic as it has been”, he said it is only getting “more interesting and more exciting”. “I really believe that Star’s commitment and Uday’s commitment to continue to innovate in story-telling, to continue to really tap into the emotions, the passions and the anxieties of a growing and dynamic society, have allowed the programming, the content itself to really resonate with audiences on a different scale and in a deeper way,” he added.
Talking about Star’s responsibility to make a difference in the lives of Indian people, that Uday Shankar strongly advocates, Murdoch Jr said it is something that he also values for Star: “While we are very proud of Star’s success as a business, perhaps I am more proud of the role that Star has been able to play in the communities it serves across the country. It is an extraordinary achievement to be able to marry business success with a real sense of social purpose and a real delivery of social impact that makes a difference in people’s lives. That is something that Uday has brought to this company and something that we are very passionate about at 21st Century Fox.”
Murdoch remembers Shankar’s call one day to talk about a new project that he wanted to take on. It led to the birth of Satyameva Jayate. “He explained it very succinctly, that it was going to be a new show talking exclusively about subjects that nobody wanted to hear about, that they were very uncomfortable and controversial for advertisers and it was scheduled for a Sunday morning slot. As he put it to me, it had ‘hit’ written all over it,” Murdoch said. “Of course we trust Uday enormously, and SMJ was born.”
Asked to evaluate the factors that have made SMJ successful, Murdoch said, “SMJ is an enormous success. It has been able to tackle, with real candour and authenticity, some of the subjects that India is talking about, maybe they are talking about it behind the scenes, maybe our customers are aware of these things but haven’t brought it out in the open for whatever reason... the brilliance of SMJ is really the ability of the show to put things out on the surface with a real sense of frankness and honesty and just a sense of being willing to have a conversation that is very inclusive... ultimately that is why it has really resonated for people and they have become excited about its ability to make a difference and their involvement in that story itself.”