Sahara commissions domestic uplinking earth station

MUMBAI: Even as Star India's licence for uplinking Star News from Indian shores gets short shrift, Hindi entertainment channel Sahara TV looks to have stolen a march over it. The Subrata Roy-owned Sahara group successfully launched its own earth station in the country at Noida, near New Delhi, according to an official release.

The release adds that Sahara TV has already started to uplink using the station, earning it the distinction of being the first Hindi entertainment satellite channel to do so directly from India. 

The first-of-its-kind earth station will enable the channel to concurrently uplink stream of 8-plus satellite channels directly from India, the release stated. This will go a great way in facilitating Sahara's news channels plan when it gets operational. Recently, NDTV - which is expected to split with its partner Star and launch its own branded news channels - got a clearance for FII investment and also for its uplinking plans.

The Indian government had liberalised the uplinking policy to allow the country to develop as a centre for broadcasting in 1999. Following that shift in policy, eight Indian companies had been permitted to set up their uplinking hubs in India and 36 television channels were permitted to uplink their programmes from India using VSNL's and DD's facilities. Earth stations cost a packet and hence not too many of them have come up as yet.

To attract companies to invest in earth stations, the finance minister had reduced basic custom duty rates on import of certain specified equipments for setting up of an earth station for broadcasting, from 35 percent to 25 percent with effect from 1March 2002.

Among the companies, which have set up earth stations, figure Sun TV, Eenadu and Zee TV. The last has been uplinking its language channels using its earth station close to Noida.

"We had promised the government of India that we shall set-up our own earth station. Today, we are happy that we have a unique earth station in India one which we can be truly proud of," the head of Sahara TV Sumit Roy was quoted as saying in the release.

The release also stated that the state-of-the-art earth station, had the most modern teleport and playout facilities assigned to any Hindi satellite entertainment channel. It consists of a huge 9.3 metre antenna system with computerized auto-tracking to transmit signals to Asian hot bird AsiaSat 3S.

Sahara TV's captive earth station is equipped with high-end encoding devices from Tandberg incorporating statistical multiplexing to deliver a concurrent stream of 8-plus channels, according to the release. With this Multiple Channel per Carrier (MCPC) capability, the earth station has scope for quick upgradation to accommodate additional channels, as and when required.

The release also mentioned that the earth station has high power amplifiers of 2.2 kw capacity from leading manufacturer CPI. The system has a 100 percent back up and is serviced by uninterrupted power supply systems with extra capacity.

The release added that Sahara TV's earth station has the most-modern playout facility with equipment controlled through user-friendly software incorporating the latest digital technology. 

It comprises of two injest stations with multiformat injest possibilities using Sony IMX VTRs, Leitch noise reduction and colour correction devices, Orban audio processors, Bow's 10 channel disk based logging recorders, Oxtel system for channel branding, Tektronix test and measuring equipment, and Leitch video servers (with 80 hours of storage at 12 Mbps), Louth device controllers and a host of latest Sony monitors. The software, which runs the injest, playlist and the adschedule, is supplied by Harris/Louth Automation.

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