Friday, November 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet clears DTH service
Viewers to get access to 100 channels
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Nov 2—The long-awaited Direct to Home (DTH) television service today became a reality with the Union Cabinet at its meeting this morning giving final clearance to it with a 49 per cent cap on foreign equity and “suitable safeguards” to take care of concerns relating to national security, morality and monopoly in distribution and broadcasting of television services.

The Cabinet clearance for the DTH service came three days after the eight-member Group of Minister (GoM) had unanimously agreed to allow the service in the country. The GoM, headed by the Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani ,had come to an agreement for giving the clearance after two days of deliberations over various issues concerning the DTH service.

While the foreign direct investment would be limited to just 20 per cent, the investment by non-resident Indians, overseas corporate bodies and foreign institutional investors could be of the order of 49 per cent.

The Cabinet note prepared by the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj, was taken up by the Union Cabinet and cleared after a detailed discussion, including that on the provisions for regulating the content to be aired through the service. The policy cleared is also to ensure provisions with regard to India’s security concerns flowing from the unhindered multiple channel access.

The KU-band DTH service would offer greater and direct connectivity to the viewers providing access to 100 channels through a pizza-sized dish antenna and doing away with the intermediaries like the cable operators. It would also allow the service providers to penetrate the far -flung areas of the country, specially since the channels would be beamed at frequencies as high as 10,000 to 12,000 mhz.

Promising enhanced picture quality, it also has the scope for interactive television services like movie on demand and the possibility of introducing value-added services like Internet access, e-mail, home shopping, banking and tele-education.

The GoM was formed nearly two years ago to go into the controversial DTH issue and place its recommendations in front of the Union Cabinet. The decision to form the GoM was taken when Mr Pramod Mahajan was the Information and Broadcasting Minister.

Besides Mr Advani, the other members of the GoM were the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, Information and Broadcasting Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj, Information Technology Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, Communication Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Space Minister, Ms Vasundhara Raje, and Law Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley.

Later at the press conference to give details of the new policy, Ms Swaraj said, “This is a major step forward towards convergence. In fact, effective convergence has taken place today”.

Ms Swaraj said the DTH service would become a reality within a year as the government has asked all licencees to set up uplink earth stations in the country within 12 months from the date of issue of licence.

She said it would be mandatory for all licencees to uplink from Indian soil so as to ensure content regulation through monitoring. All licencees would require to adhere to programme and advertisement codes laid down by her ministry.

The applicant was required to pay an entry fee of Rs 10 crore in the beginning in addition to which 10 per cent per year of the revenue collected by the platform owner shall be payable to the government as annual fee.

Under the guidelines and terms and conditions for establishment, maintenance and operation of the service, all applicants should be registered under the Indian Companies Act and the total foreign investment, including FDI/NRI/FII in the sector, should not be more than 49 per cent in which there is a cap of 20 per cent on FDI.

Ms Swaraj announced that DTH licence would not be given excessively to any agency, whether private or public, so as to avoid monopoly in this sensitive area of information and programme distribution. As per the guidelines, there would be no restrictions on the number of licencees and the licence would be issued for a period of 10 years, on non-exclusive basis.

Besides, the applicant must have Indian management control with majority representatives on the board as well as CEO of the company being a resident Indian citizen.

Though a licencee could use the band with capacity for DTH service on both Indian and foreign satellites, proposals envisaging use of Indian satellites would be extended on preferential treatment.

Under DTH service, which can be operated by a person or a company, the licencee would be bound to carry channels of Prasar Bharati on the most favourable financial terms offered to any other channel.

Replying to questions, Ms Swaraj said a legal framework would be put up for providing the licences. She said the proposed Convergence Bill was already seized of the matter and that until then her ministry would issue the licenses.

She declined to hazard any guess on the number of licences likely to be issued or the revenue the government might collect through opening up DTH, saying it all depended upon the market assessment by the applicants.

The minister said the government had taken extra caution and care while allowing DTH as “it is not just another trade sector” and there was need to ensure content regulation and see that vertical monopoly was not created to ensure a level playing field for all television channels.

The terms and conditions also stipulate that record of the programmes and advertisements carried on the platform be kept by the licencee for 90 days after broadcast and to be made available to the authorised representative of the licenser when required.

As regards subscriber’s interest, the guidelines make it clear that the licencee shall ensure them through Single Conditional Access Technology, Subscriber Management system (SMS), an Open Architecture (non-proprietary) Set Top Box, a Cast Iron Encryption System and efficient responsive and accurate billing and collection system. 

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