Government planning to take cable to remote areas

NEW DELHI: The government, in association with Prasar Bharati, has decided that cable TV services will be started in all those places in the country where normal terrestrial transmission is not possible or where such signals are weak resulting in bad audio visuals.

Speaking to select journalists today, information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj, said: "We have decided that Prasar Bharati will start cable TV services in those places where TV has not reached yet. The first such project will be undertaken in (the hilly) North-East India."

The minister added that other areas where such cable services will be started by Prasar Bharati are still being identified.

Such Prasar Bharati-sponsored cable services will carry other satellite channels too, apart from DD channels.

Though Swaraj dwelt on Prasar Bharati, but when asked about revival plans of DD News channel, she promptly lobbed the ball back in the Corporation's court. "For such things only Prasar Bharati can say anything," she said, adding that Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body and can take independent decisions. The minister, however, said that recommendations of the Narayanamurthy Committee will have to be looked into and other inter-departmental issues resolved before any action can be taken.

The Narayanamurthy panel (consisting of Kiran Karnik and marketing whiz Shunu Sen) which submitted its report last year or so, had said, amongst other things, that Prasar Bharati, MTNL and VSNL should come together to form a company which should offer services like cable TV, telephony and Internet.

This committee's report, like some other earlier high-profile reports, has been gathering dust since then. Asked when Prasar Bharati is likely to get a new chairman (board chairman Prof UR Rao resigned a few months back), Swaraj said she cannot comment on the issue as the selection is to be done by a committee which is headed by the vice-president of India.

But she did indicate that Prof Rao, while citing personal reasons for quitting Prasar Bharati, may have resigned as he was also on the board of Agrani, a satellite company promoted by Zee supremo Subhash Chandra.

Asked about Star's application for starting a DTH venture (through an affiliate company Space TV) and a news channel, where it will have full editorial control too, Swaraj maintained a non-commital stance saying, "We have received the applications and they are being processed."

The minister was also mum on the issue of guidelines on FDI in the print media saying: "An inter-ministerial group has been set up and it has been holding some meetings to decide on the guidelines."

Swaraj also spoke at length on the pros and cons of narrowcasting and allowing organisations like universities to start their own radio stations.

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