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Free channels via set-top box on DD’s DTH irk cablewallahs

05-January-2005
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Free channels via set-top box on DD’s DTH irk cablewallahs

Independent cable networks, representing around 25,000 players across the country, are planning to send a memorandum to the parliamentary standing committee on information technology objecting to Prasar Bharati’s direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting.

Their point is, why should free-to-air channels, as in the case of Prasar Bharati DTH, be accessed through set-top boxes.

As for conditional access system (CAS), a cable TV viewer could access 30 free-to-air channels, without a set-top box. Pubcaster’s DTH also offers 30 free-to-air channels.

Why must a consumer pay Rs 3,000-3,500 for a set-top box, to access 30 free-to-air channels through Prasar Bharati DTH, the cable networks are asking the Standing Committee.

It may be recalled that many industry players and consumer groups had objected against CAS due to the initial payout towards set-top boxes.

But, there’s a distinction between Prasar Bharati DTH and CAS, points out an industry expert. While CAS was mandated by the government, DTH is not.

Also, under the CAS regime, a TV viewer needs to pay around Rs 100 per month. In the case of Prasar Bharati DTH, there’s no monthly payout, as per the current arrangement.

The Standing Committee on Information Technology had, during the last Parliament session, asked the government to enact a relevant law to regulate the entry and growth of DTH broadcasting services. DTH in India is regulated by guidelines, and not by a comprehensive law.

Responding to the action taken report of the government on DTH, the Standing Committee has said that “guidelines cannot be a substitute for a comprehensive legal framework”.

“While acknowledging the need to take advantage of changes in the information technology and communication scenario, the Committee strongly feels that the social cause of the effect of foreign TV channels on the Indian citizen is of paramount importance and cannot be sacrificed,” the panel chaired by M M Pallam Raju has stated.

Currently, Subhash Chandra-promoted ASC Enterprises is the only private DTH player in the country. Prasar Bharati’s DTH has only free-to-air channels. Tata-Star joint venture for DTH, Space TV’s application is pending with the government.

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