The government will set mandates for the encryption of Doordarshan’s terrestrial signals for the forthcoming ICC World Cup. This has been decided in a bid to address the concerns of private broadcasters who feel that sharing live sporting events with DD leads to piracy.
The Union Cabinet had set up the technical sub-group in DD to look into the matter, and had proposed that DD signals be encrypted in such a manner that it only feeds the content to DD’s terrestrial transmitting centres.
The Sports Broadcasting Ordinance was recently passed by the Union Cabinet making it mandatory for private broadcasters to share live and clean feed with Prasar Bharati for sporting events of national importance.
According to a source in the DD sub-group, encryption of DD signals is in line with global practices wherein the terrestrial network uses a closed system for feed transportation. If the encrypted signal proposal is implemented, DD will have to bear the technical costs of encrypting signals for 1,400 terrestrial transmitters, besides the decoding of 70,000 cable network routers to stop the pilferage of live feed of sporting events by neighbouring territories.
Private broadcasters such as ESPN Star, Nimbus and Zee, who, among themselves own close to 95 per cent of all Indian cricket telecast rights, had earlier demanded that DD signals be encrypted on the ground that the satellites used by DD had significant signal dispersion into many neighbouring countries, including the Middle East and Singapore. They felt that since DD had not upgraded its technology, the signals sent through terrestrial transmitters without any encryption could be pirated and used by broadcasters abroad.
In February this year, the Union Cabinet decided to define the road map for signal encryption for DD, and this was ruled out after a complaint by Nimbus in Delhi High Court that DD live cricket signals are being pirated.
To ensure that private broadcasters share quality feed with DD, the sub-group has suggested that parameters for production and technical quality be specified with respect to prime events so as to specify a minimum standard of coverage to viewers.
With regard to DD’s direct-to-home platform, the source in the sub-group has said that DTH was aimed to complement the terrestrial network and has recommended that it continue to be free-to-air. However, to address the issue of the rights of sports broadcasting signals, the sporting event may be carried as deferred live, he said.
“Encryption will not be possible immediately and would require around seven months for its implementation. There are 1,400 centres where we have to encrypt. We have to see how to get equipment and how to go about the entire process,” the source said.