DD mulls leasing DTH infrastructure to private players

NEW DELHI: With Prasar Bharati’s annual revenue on the slide as the gap between earnings and spending has increased over the years, a proposal has been mooted that the uplinking and downlinking facilities at its disposal could be rented out to private players interested in setting up KU-band direct-to-home television service in India.

That is, if a private player, interested in starting a DTH service in India, does not have the infrastructure and would not like to lease transponders for the DTH service, it can come to Doordarshan and take such facilities on lease or rent. According to sources in the government, a proposal to this effect was discussed between the information and broadcasting ministry, which gives Prasar Bharati annual grant in-aid, and the Planning Commission that is responsible for fine-tuning financial assistance to various government organizations, government-supported entities and the states.

Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body formed by an Act of Parliament and manages the affairs of India’s pubcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio. Whether such a move can be practically translated into a reality would become clear when the finer points are drawn up because a private player interested in foraying in the DTH arena would like to have its own infrastructure.

Still, the government and the Planning Commission are optimistic that this proposal would have buyers as DD’s ground infrastructure is the best in the country, but the sources added that these are early days for this proposal. Meanwhile, it has also been decided that the subscription-free DTH service that DD would be launching in 2004, unlike a typical DTH service that comes at a price, would be carrying more than 30 channels, which was decided earlier.

“The Prasar Bharati is interested in carrying many more channels (including 20 DD channels) on its proposed DTH service so as to make it attractive. There is no dearth of non-DD free to air channels even as discussions would be held with the likes of Star , Sony Entertainment and Zee for some of their channels too to join the DTH platform,” a government official said. According to information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was replying to a question on DD’s DTH scheme in the Rajya Sabha, the pilot KU-band project has been approved by the government with the cost envisaged being Rs 1643.5 million.

Interestingly, Prasad also informed fellow parliamentarians that a proposal has been received from the Andhra Pradesh government for allowing cable operators in the state to receive and distribute KU-band signals through their networks for “dissemination of high quality programmes to needy and isolated schools and colleges.”

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