DD's DTH may go e-auction route to take in channels

NEW DELHI: Although a majority of the members of the Prasar Bharati Board favour e-auction to shortlist the television channels which will get space on the country’s only free-to-air direct-to-home platform after its expansion, no final decision has been taken yet.

If DD Direct Plus auctions the slots for the channels, it is expected to earn at least Rs 3.5 billion. Prasar Bharati sources said an e-auction may mean replacement of the present system of an annual carriage fee, which is around Rs 8 million a channel.
Since over 250 free-to-air TV channels are in the queue, Prasar Bharati will now have to consider whether the slots should be given on a first-come-first-served basis or through e-auction which is bound to give greater revenue.

Prasar Bharati sources told that a sub-committee with experts may be formed to finalise the mode of selection. 
The DTH platform has a current capacity of 59 channels. It presently beams 57 TV channels, apart from 21 channels of All India Radio. The TV channels include 21 Doordarshan channels.

The long-awaited clearance for the expansion of DD Direct Plus came through earlier this month with the board giving its approval for expansion to 200 channels by the end of the year. The Board decided that "this is to be implemented with immediate effect and efforts made to make it operational within a month."

Sources said an e-auction may help Prasar Bharati overcome the difficulties created when it had served notices to some channels to go off DD Direct Plus to make way for high definition TV channels. The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (Tdsat) is presently hearing a case in this connection.

Earlier, DD sources had told that the augmentation of DD Direct Plus‘ capacity will cost Rs 554.3 million as part of the 11th Plan scheme. According to the budget approved on 4 August 2010, the augmentation in the first phase should have been completed by 31 March 2011.

Being an FTA platform, the consumer has to pay a one-time charge for dish antennae, set top box and installation ranging between Rs 4,000 to Rs 8,000 depending on the brand chosen by the consumer.

DD Direct Plus has a subscriber base of around 8 to 9 million subscribers, including the remote hilly areas and the north-eastern states.

The country has six private platforms that are operational – Dish TV, Tata Sky, Reliance Digital TV, Sun Direct, Airtel Digital TV and Videocon d2h.

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