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No more free rides for channels on DD Free Dish?

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has finally addressed the issue and assured them that the matter will be taken up immediately

by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published - Feb 16, 2021 8:01 AM  |  3 min read

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Channels enjoying a free ride on DD Free Dish may soon be a thing of the past. Broadcaster bodies have long been complaining of some regional channels bypassing the auction process on DD Free Dish but still reaping the benefits of the platform in terms of reach by riding on technical slipups. Fortunately for broadcasters, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has finally addressed the issue and assured them that the matter will be taken up immediately.

Earlier this month, Javadekar replied to a question in Loksabha by stating: “Reference was received from Prasar Bharati regarding the reception of some channels of the private broadcasters on the Set-Top Boxes of DD Free Dish subscribers, which were not part of channels downlinkable from that platform. The Ministry proposes to address this issue in the new uplinking and downlinking guidelines for private TV channels to be notified by the Government.”

As per sources, around nine regional channels have been bypassing Free Dish regulations, creating discrepancies in the system. “The glitch is not just impacting broadcasters who are on the platform through auction and paying a huge carriage fee annually but is also costing the public broadcaster a setback of close to Rs 60 crore annually,” said an industry insider.

According to MIB, this situation has come to pass due to co-location of signals and the non-mandatory requirement for encryption of signals of a Free-to-Air TV Channel.

The technical slip-up in question here is MIB’s permissions to certain platforms to carry on dual transmission on C-band as well as Ku-band. DD Free Dish platform operates in the Ku-band on GSAT 15 satellite providing services to the viewers on the free-to-air basis and thus guaranteeing huge viewership and reach to broadcasters on the platform. The nine regional channels in question are allegedly are available in unencrypted form to viewers illegally through the set-top box meant for free to air viewing of channels through the DD Free Dish platform.

Some broadcasters who are present on the free dish platform through the auctioning process and also paying an annual carriage fee of close to Rs 11 crore claim that the said nine channels have managed to get a 33% market share against the one-digit share they had back in the second half of 2019 when they were not on the free dish platform. “This is unfair for broadcasters who are there on the platform because the channels in question cut through the reach of the legit players,” said another industry insider.

The assurance from the ministry to take up the matter comes as a huge relief to the industry especially at a time when dwindling toplines and volatile market conditions have forced a lot of small-time players to back out from the DD free dish platform in the near past.


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