Swaraj swings towards private broadcasters on DTH?


Is information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj listening to the pleas of wannabe players that the country should not take the open architecture route on the DTH television front? (All broadcasters have been unanimous that this would make DTH a non-starter.) If one goes by statements being attributed to her, it appears as though she is, though she might well be playing to the gallery in order to keep the groaners at bay.

A local business daily has her reportedly telling reporters that that there was no technology which allowed a set-top box to access any number of DTH services. "At most, two DTH services can be accessed," she had said.

Swaraj, reportedly, made these statements after being taken on a tour of the News Corp owned UK DTH service BSKyB's facilities in England. Swaraj had paid a visit to Cannes to promote Indian cinema as leader of an official delegation to the film festival there. She reportedly had a stopover in Britain.

If the statements being attributed to her are true and they do get translated into changes in what are being seen as draconian DTH regulations, some private broadcasters may go ahead with their DTH plans which are in cold storage now. Among them: Zee TV, Star, Sterling Group, and Modi Entertainment.

A senior industry official, however, was not very optimistic about the statements from Ms Swaraj. He pointed out that no private broadcaster has submitted a DTH proposal to the government till date.

And secondly, he added that DTH has currently been relegated to the backburner by both private broadcasters and the government. "The convergence bill (it is likely to be tabled in parliament during the monsoon session) is what the focus is on currently. Circa 2002 is when we will see any action on DTH. And the only serious player I see is VSNL. Being a telecom company and government owned, it is not impacted by the restrictions laid down for broadcasters in the DTH regulations.."

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