Demand for encryption of DD Signals faces rejection

NEW DELHI: The demand for setting encryption mandates for Doordarshan’s terrestrial signals is likely to be rejected by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, with consensus eluding the technical sub-group studying the issue.

Ministry sources told that encryption could mean a major policy shift since Doordarshan was a public broadcaster with free-to-air signals and it would be unethical to restrict the reach of its signals in any way. The Ministry also feels that since many of Doordarshan’s 1400 transmitters are unmanned, they would first have to be given manpower which can decode or encrypt the signals.

This may also create problems for cable operators since Doordarshan is covered by the must-carry clause in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 and the cable operators have to show this channel. Furthermore, the DD Direct set top boxes which reach around four million households are not equipped to handle encryption as this direct-to-home platform is free to air.


The sub-group headed by All India Radio Director-General Brajeshwar Singh to study the issue had already submitted its report. Earlier, a draft report had been circulated among the members in an effort to arrive at a consensus but the report was submitted in the absence of any commonality.

The Ministry had been informed of the difference of opinion even as the matter was under consideration, and had widened the mandate before the sub-group to reject encryption or consider other options wherever necessary.


The sub-group, which met over the weekend, is also reported to have rejected the offer made by the Board of Control for Cricket in India that the cricket body would undertake cost of around Rs twenty million for the encryption of all DD transmitters.

BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah had told last month that it was prepared to undertake the cost of encryption which could be completed in about two weeks.

The report would now be placed before various stakeholders and the Ministry may attempt to arrive at a consensus. But sources said this may not be easy since the report had dealt more with the difficulties attached to encryption rather than giving its view on whether this should be done.

The idea of setting mandates for the encryption was suggested after private broadcasters said sharing live sporting events with DD leads to piracy. The Union Cabinet had suggested while setting up the sub-group that DD signals should be encrypted in a manner that only DD’s terrestrial transmitting centres receive the feeds.

The Ministry also feels that it is not in public interest for private channels to refuse to share their sports signals with the public broadcaster since all those receiving TV signals terrestrially would be deprived of seeing World Cup matches.

During his reply to the discussion on the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Bill, the Minister had said it was not safe for the public broadcaster to de-code all its 1,400 DD transmitters together as it would affect ‘the public service obligation’ of the channel.

ESPN Star, Nimbus and Zee, among other broadcasters had demanded that DD signals be encrypted as the public broadcaster had a reach spanning a vast area from West Asia to Singapore. The Cabinet had also asked the technical committee to meet the stakeholders ESPN Star, ZEE, Nimbus, and BCCI and find out a common device to protect the signal which cannot be pirated abroad.


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