In pursuance of the principle of non-discriminatory sharing of content, the government has asked the direct-to-home (DTH) players to give an undertaking of not entering into any exclusive contract for distribution of TV channels.
Even as the Rs 1,600 crore Star-Tata DTH joint venture proposal is awaiting clearance, the information and broadcasting ministry has asked the Subhash Chandra-promoted DTH venture Dish TV to give an undertaking by this month-end.
This implies the Rs 1,600 crore venture Space TV will have no exclusivity over content, including the Star bouquet, which Dish TV is seeking to get on its network.
When contacted, Essel Group Vice-President (corporate brand development) Ashish Kaul welcomed the move, saying, "We are always for carrying all the available channels. We have written several letters to Star for sharing their content on our DTH platform."
On the other hand, Space TV Chief Executive Officer Vikram Kaushik declined comment on the issue of undertaking.
The communication sent to Dish TV by the information and broadcasting ministry last week was based on the interconnect regulation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, which orders a "must provide" clause among broadcasting and cable service providers.
In its communication, the government has further said the DTH players would have to commit they would not carry the signals of a broadcaster who has been found by a regulatory body or court of law to have refused access on non-discriminatory basis to any other DTH operator.
Also, it says the undertaking should include they would not carry the channels of those broadcasters "who have violated the provisions of any law relating to competition, including the Competition Act".
This means if any broadcaster refuses to share its channels with a DTH player, it will have no right to carry the channels on any other DTH platform as well, including its own.
Interestingly, Star India and Sony have refused to provide their channels to Dish TV, citing piracy and other commercial reasons.