Free ride on Free Dish to end soon: MIB set to amend channel uplinking & downlinking rules

Proposed guidelines aim at bringing ease of doing business in the broadcast sector

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Mar 9, 2021 11:43 AM

The Narendra Modi government is now set to bring ease of doing business in the broadcasting ecosystem. After talks on a National Broadcast Policy and introducing changes to the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) now appears to be working on finalizing an amendment in policy guidelines for uplinking and downlinking TV channels.

Turns out, the draft policy guideline circular that was issued in April 2020 is finally being prepped for implementation after inter-ministerial consultations. While the proposed guidelines offer a host of procedural relaxations, the big question doing the rounds of the broadcasting circuit is whether the amended policy will take care of the longstanding complaint of some channels enjoying a free ride on DD Free Dish?

In order to prevent unauthorized receipt of signals, the proposed guidelines apparently clearly mention that while the existing guideline allows a company to applying either in C or KU band, under the new proposal, uplinking can be done in the frequency band specified by the applicant. Uplinking in a band other than C band has to be in encrypted mode.

In the past, several complaints were made to the ministry that close to 10 channels have been enjoying free ride on DD Free Dish on account of technical slip-ups caused by MIB by allowing certain platforms to carry on dual transmission on C band as well as KU band. DD Free Dish is available on KU Band on GSAT-15. Channels available on DD Free Dish are free, thereby offering the channels a huge viewership and reach. Apparently a handful of channels bypassed paying the fees that applies to channels present on the platform. This new guideline is expected to not just ensure prevention of revenue loss for the pubcaster but also create a level playing ground for all private TV channels.

Other important changes in the proposed policy to introduce ease of doing business include how an LLP (limited liability partnership) can now obtain permissions to apply for setting up teleports, uplinking/downlinking of TV channels setting up news agency, purchases/hiring of DSNG/SNG equipment.

The new guideline also proposes that no processing fee shall be charged for live events and for change of language/mode of transmission.

The guidelines, as per sources, also allow foreign channels to uplink from Indian teleports on payment of annual permission fees.

Additionally, as per the new proposal, simple interest at the rate of 2% per month will be charged on late payment of permission fee to ensure timely payment of government dues.

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