DTH set to take off in Pakistan on 1 January 2004

MUMBAI: While Zee continues to meander in soft launch terrain and Star's Space TV is up in the air, it may well be India's not-so-friendly neighbour Pakistan where one will see a full-blown launch of DTH.

The targeted date for launch is reportedly 1 January 2004.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on 25 November awarded two DTH licences to Cross Currents (Pvt) Limited (the highest bidder) and ARY Communications which matched its bid with the highest bid through an open bidding process, Pakistan's The News reported recently.

Cross Currents offered the maximum bid of Pak Rs 250 million while ARY Communications quoted Pak Rs 192.500 million but under the rules, the ARY matched the highest bid of Pak Rs 250 million and qualified for first two DTH channels rights in Pakistan.

Pemra chairman Mian Muhammad Javed was quoted by The News as saying, "DTH would bring a revolution in the country with maximum possible expansion of TV viewers. Cable network is available to only four million houses while PTV could reach about 85 per cent of the area whereas the DTH will reach every nook and corner of the country."

Interestingly, Javed had said in a speech on 22 November, "The DTH licences are being issued at the right time, as the neighbouring country (India) has also started this service," adding that if "we don't start the service now, the DTH of our neighbour will flourish in Pakistan."

While Pakistan's DTH platforms can carry anywhere between 50 to 250 channels, Pemra clearance under its code of ethics will be needed for each channel in the bouquet.

This is significant because when it was announced that ARY was also in the running for the licence, queries were raised. One referred to an article in The Washington Post in which ARY was reported as having links with al-Qaeda and Taliban, and that the FBI was probing the matter. ARY was also accused of telecasting "substandard and obscene programmes" produced out of India and Pakistan.

According to industry sources, the man who is advising ARY in its DTH project is the Dubai-based Arab Digital Distribution's (ADD) CEO Dr. John Tyderman. The Pehla platform, which targets subcontinent viewers, is part of ADD.

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