Prasar Bharati may get relaxed terms on DTH equity cap

NEW DELHI: The Indian government is contemplating whether pubcaster Prasar Bharati, which manages the affairs of Doordarshan and All India Radio, can be given some concession in direct-to-home (DTH) television services as far as a media cap of 20 per cent is concerned.

According to information and broadcasting ministry sources, national and pubcasters ought to be given some waivers where guidelines are concerned and the issue is under active consideration of the ministry.

"A final decision in this regard of waiver of equity cap would have to be taken by the I&B minister when Doordarshan starts a country-wide DTH service and the platform would have pay as well as free to air private satellite channels, apart from DD channels," a source familiar with the developments said.

At present, as per guidelines, in a DTH venture a broadcast or a cable company cannot hold more than 20 per cent shareholding. In addition, there is also a 49 per cent foreign shareholding cap in the total equity of the company. 

If the guidelines are to be implemented, then DD, planning to start a limited DTH service soon to be expanded into a full-fledged service later, can hold only 20 per cent equity in the DTH venture and would have to find partners, preferably Indian, for the remaining part of the shareholding.

I&B ministry sources said that since DD's soon-to-be-started DTH venture, for which an okay has been given by the ministry, is limited to North East part of the country where cable and terrestrial television is difficult to take, the media cap of 20 per cent won't be applicable.

The proposal, however, is awaiting a green signal from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs as the investment envisaged is too big for the I&B ministry to clear.

Meanwhile, the search for a new director-general of Doordarshan is on at an informal level as the present incumbent, SY Quraishi, still hasn't got any orders for a new posting. Contacted by indiantelevision.com I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad refused to comment on the DG issue, though information available says that Prasar Bharati CEO K.S. Sarma had a meeting with the minister today.

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