Government ready to issue DTH LoI to Sun

NEW DELHI: Sun TVs direct-to-home (DTH) service licence is on its way with the path being cleared for the issuance of a letter of intent (LoI).

According to the government, a communication has been sent to the Sun TV group asking them to complete some formalities that would lead to the issuance of a LoI soon.

Suns DTH LoI, a precursor to a licence to run a DTH televisions service in India, had not been issued along with that of Space TV on last month as a public interest litigation was being heard in a Chennai court against such a move.

We have asked the Sun group to pay up the bank guarantee of Rs. 100 million and give certain other undertakings before an LoI is issued to it for a DTH service soon, a senior information and broadcasting ministry official said here today.

According to the official, under normal circumstances, Suns LoI, kept ready since last month, would have been issued along with that of Space TV on 17 May, but the court case stopped them from taking further action on it. Space TV, 80:20 joint venture between the Tatas and Star group, was handed the LoI on 17 May.

Now that the court case has been dismissed, we would process the matter fast, the official added.

The PIL against issuance of a DTH licence to Sun group had argued that such a move would amount to monopoly of a single company, Sun, in distribution of TV content. The Madras high court, however, dismissed the case some days back saying there was hardly any merit in the petition.

The court said the petition did not satisfy any of the tests laid down by the Supreme Court to entertain PILs.

"When the licensing authority is still seized of the matter relating to the grant of licence to the Sun group, this court cannot outreach its jurisdiction and decide the manner in which the application for the grant of licence should be considered by the licensing authority. The prayer, as framed in the writ petition, cannot be granted,'' a vacation bench, comprising Justices Prabha Sridevan and C. Nagappan had observed.

Dismissing the plea of P.G. Narayanan, the petitioner, the judges had said, "He is not speaking on behalf of the downtrodden people or people who cannot speak for themselves. No case of public injury has been made out and we do not see how the petitioner has the locus standi to raise this issue. Therefore, on the ground of maintainability alone, this writ petition deserves to be dismissed.''

The Sun group had applied for a DTH licence some six months back through Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd.

In the DTH company, Kalanithi Maran --- IT and communication minister Dayanidhi Maran's brother --- holds 96.67 per cent with a Rs 1,450-million investment in the paid-up equity, while his wife, Kaveri Maran, held 3.33 per cent with an investment of RS 50 million. Kalanithi Maran is also CMD of Sun TV Pvt Ltd, in which he holds 60 per cent, which manages the Sun bouquet of channels and cable networks in certain parts of the country.

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