DD may offer 30-35% stake in DTH venture

NEW DELHI: India's pubcaster Prasar Bharati Corporation, which has said that Doordarshan is planning a KU-band direct-to-home (DTH) television service foray, will form a consortium with other semi-government organisations, with the latter holding between 30-35 per cent equity stake in the proposed DTH venture.

Bringing in more than one outside partner has been necessitated because as per the DTH policy guidelines a broadcaster (in this case Prasar Bharati /Doordarshan) and/or a cable company shall not be eligible to collectively own more than 20 per cent of the total equity in a DTH venture.

A source in the Prasar Bharati told indiantelevision.com today,"The exact quantum of the stakeholding would be decided by the Prasar Bharati board, but it has been mooted that outside organisations may hold between 30-35 per cent stake in the proposed DTH venture."

A clearer picture on the quantum of equity stake and the organisations that will participate in the DTH venture is likely to emerge after the Prasar Bharati board, slated to meet later this week, discusses the issue.

Though India's Planning Commission, which advises the government on funds allocation on various sectors and to various government-aided organisations, has approved a sum of five billion for Prasar Bharati's DTH foray to be spent over five years, the Corporation, modelled on the lines of British Broadcasting Corporation, cannot invest in more than 20 per cent shareholding in a DTH venture.

The Prasar Bharati source also confirmed that talks have been initiated with the likes of Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd. (MTNL), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) and the Tatas-controlled Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL)--- all telecom service providers --- to participate in the DTH consortium.

India's information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently told a panel of policy makers attached to his ministry that pubcaster Doordarshan was opting for a KU-band DTH scheme at an estimated cost of Rs 6,380 million as terrestrial expansion to cover the whole population would have been much more costly.

As compared to Rs 6,380 million on KU band project, the coverage through the terrestrial method would have required capital investment of Rs 34,560 million and recurring expenditure of Rs 5,190 million annually. Doordarshan is hiring four satellite transponders for the purpose.

The KU-band transmission project is aimed covering the remaining 10 per cent of the population, which at present is unable to get DD transmission due to the lack of reach of the terrestrial system.

To begin with, the KU- band DTH project would have 20 channels uplinked from Delhi. In a year's time this is likely to be extended to 60 channels. All the channels would be free to air. DD's director-general S Y Quraishi had earlier told journalists that in future DD's DTH platform may also include private satellite channels.

According to government estimates, about 200,000 homes in rural, remote, inaccessible mountainous regions and border areas would be covered by DD by providing cable headends and set top boxes.

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