FreeDish ready to beam 104 TV channels; 24 on MPEG4

NEW DELHI: Doordarshan today formally announced that it is now capable of carrying 104 television channels on its free-to-air direct-to-home FreeDish. 24 channels that are being added to the existing 80 channels will be directly be launched on MPEG4 technology.

DD officials also confirmed that FreeDish will soon be capable of carrying up to 250 channels.

In line with the ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’, DD has decided to implement Indian CAS (iCAS) on DD FreeDish Platform. iCAS (which is an initiative of the central government, is being initially introduced in 24 MPEG-4 channels. The introduction of iCAS will provide enhanced viewing experience.

DD officials said these additional 24 MPEG-4 SDTV channels will be available to viewers in FTA mode. The existing viewers will continue to get 80 SDTV channels, but will have to obtain iCAS-enabled authorised set-top boxes for accessing all 104 channels.

Although FreeDish will remain free to air with no monthly or periodic fee, the viewers will be required to register with DD FreeDish on getting the new STB from Doordarshan authorised STB dealers.

Slots on DD FreeDish are allocated to private channels through a transparent system of e-auction. DD earned Rs 980 million in 2014-15, Rs 1800 million in 2015-16, and Rs 1040 million till September in 2016-17. The next auction – the 31st – is slated for 5 October. FreeDish was launched with a modest bouquet of 33 channels in December 2004, and now carries eight TV channels and 32 radio channels.

The platform has a rich bouquet of channels consisting of 22 Doordarshan channels, two parliamentary channels, seven general entertainment and music channels each, 18 movie channels, 13 news channels, three religious channels and eight channels of other genres.

DD officials said implementation of iCAS and authorisation of STB original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) by Doordarshan will give a major thrust to ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’. At present, a majority of STBs are imported. However, the introduction of iCAS will help in standardization of STBs and encourage quality STB manufacturing in India.

For authorisation of STB OEMs, a series of meetings were conducted by DD DG Supriya Sahu and her team with the Indian STB manufacturers, Department of Telecom and Information Technology, C-DAC, chip set manufacturers and other stakeholders.

After active consultation with all the stakeholders, DD started the process for rolling out MPEG-4 STBs for its DD FreeDish with iCAS. Doordarshan has invited e-applications for authorisation / empanelment of STB OEMs to sell / distribute DD-approved CAS-enabled DD FreeDish set-top boxes (STB) in India.

Once the Indian STB OEMs are authorised by DD, they will start manufacturing quality STBs in India. They will set up their distribution network all over India for selling Indian STBs and providing services to Doordarshan FreeDish viewers. Doordarshan DTH has also planned to set up customer care service for DD FreeDish viewers and has planned extensive complaint redressal mechanism.

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