DTH

More clarifications sought from Tata-Star

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NEW DELHI: It seems that the Tata-Star combine may have to wait for some more time before it can lay its hands on a letter of intent from the government, relating to a direct-to-home (DTH) television service that it proposes to start.

"Some gaps were found in the application and the government has sought more clarifications from them (Tata-Star), last week on those issues. The response is still awaited," a senior information and broadcasting ministry official told indiantelevision.com today.

Asked about the nature of clarifications sought, the official indicated that they pertained to the 'eligibility criterion' for a DTH license, including 'some more clarity' on the equity pattern in the joint venture company.

In January this year, Tata Sons had announced formation of a joint venture with the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star Group for launching a DTH platform in India. The Tata Group holds 80 per cent in the JV, which is envisaging building India's largest digital television platform (estimated project cost: Rs 1.6 billion) and offering a range of channels with interactive features and services.

If cleared, Tata-Star's Space TV would be the third KU-band DTH service provider in the country after Dish TV, 20 per cent owned by Zee, and Indian pubcaster Doordarshan's DD Direct Plus that is yet to be formally launched.

Hong Kong-based research and analysis firm Media Partners Asia estimates that the Indian DTH market could grow at the rate of 15 per cent annually.

About a month back, I&B ministry had said that the Tata-Star application could be cleared by year-end, raising hopes in Star that the service could be started by March 2005, if not earlier.

The Space TV application has been cleared by most related Indian government agencies, including the home ministry, which looks into various security aspects of such ventures.

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