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Reliance DTH application in order: I&B ministry

NEW DELHI: The Reliance magic is working on the DTH front. A clearance is expected soon, according to the government.

“A DTH proposal from the Anil Ambani group is being processed, which will make it the third licence to be handed out by this government,” information and broadcasting minister Jaipal Reddy told the Economic Editors’ Conference here today. Reddy, who dubbed DTH as a technology with “untold potentials,” said his ministry has been working to remove bottlenecks in this segment of the broadcasting industry. Contrary to the Tata Star joint venture, which got a green signal from the government for a DTH service after a long delay, Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Enterprise (ADAE)’s proposal seems to be sailing smoothly.

A senior I&B ministry official admitted today that the ministry has scanned the application from the Ambani company and has “found it to be in order.”

The I&B ministry is awaiting routine clearances from other government agencies, including the home ministry, before it hands out a letter of intent, signalling the start of a lengthy procedure of handing out the actual licence for a DTH service.

In the DTH company, which would start a service under the brand name Bluemagic, absence of any foreign investment or partner has simplified matters, government officials pointed out.

Anil Ambani, who’s awaiting completion of formalities relating to division of the Reliance empire amongst the children of Dhirubhai Ambani, recently changed the name of the DTH venture to Reliance Bluemagic from Reliance Skymagic, following objections by the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp to the word 'Sky.'

ADAE has indicated to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) that it wants to start the service towards the second half of 2006 with six transponders on the Insat-4 series, which it plans to ramp up over a period of time.

Interestingly, government officials claimed that contrary to media reports, government controlled oil company BPCL is yet to apply for a DTH licence.

“At least I haven’t seen any application from BPCL,” a senior I&B ministry official said.

At present, DD Direct+ and Dishtv are the two existing players in the DTH space, while the Tata-Star combine and Sun TV group's Sun Direct TV have been given a green signal by the government to start their services.

Reliance Bluemagic will be the fifth player in the market, which is expected to be approximately 15 per cent of the total TV market in India over a period of five to eight years.

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