Nothing decided on DTH plans, says Star's Altaf Ali Mohammed


Altaf Ali Mohammed, in charge of Star's DTH and broadband operations in India, today rubbished reports in the press that Star had put together a $ 350 million war chest to vigorously pursue its DTH plans in India this year.

No decisions have been made regarding Star's DTH venture as there were still a number of issues to be clarified, Mohammed pointed out, while stating that he he had yet to get the full gist of the statement that information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj is reported to have made in parliament on Friday regarding uplinking from India.

Swaraj, in a written statement in Parliament, has been quoted as saying that since the convergence bill was still at the drafting stage, it was not possible to say whether it would have any provision for compulsory uplinking of foreign channels.

As per the DTH notification issued in March on the ground rules for companies wanting to enter DTH in India, any licensee will have to establish an uplink earth station in India within 12 months from the date of issue of license. All content provided by the DTH platform to the subscribers, irrespective of its source, will have to pass through the common encryption and conditional access system, located within the earth station, situated on Indian soil.

Asked for his reaction to strong rumours in the market that Star was the most likely partner in the DTH platform that government internet gateway provider Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) was planning to launch before the end of the year, Mohammed said he was in charge of the project and he was putting on record that nothing had been decided yet on the matter. "The fact that no one has applied for a DTH licence till now (the government notification was out in March) should indicate something," Mohammed stated.

There were still a number of issues which needed clarification before there could be any go-ahead on DTH, Mohammed said. An issue which needed further elaboration from the government was the one requiring a record of all that was aired for a period of 90 days after telecast, he said.

One of the clauses in the guidelines state: "The DTH operator will follow the advertising and programming code drawn up by the information and broadcasting ministry. And it should maintain a record of the advertising and programming for 90 days."

Mohammed also drew issue over the fixing of responsibility for the content of third party channels with the platform provider. He said that the same rules that applied to cable operators should apply here too because it was only the distribution methodology that was different in the two cases.

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