Regulators

Space TV: I&B readies note for Reddy's approval

MUMBAI: Finally in sight, it seems, at least for Space TV, the Tata Sons and Star group, 80:20 joint venture for a DTH service in India.

According to sources close to the government and DTH developments, the information and broadcasting ministry has prepared a note for the approval of minister Jaipal Reddy.

 

Reddy's ok would pave the way for issuance of a letter of intent (LoI) to Space TV. The ministerial approval is expected to come through in 10 days or so, barring unforeseen hitches.

However, even after the letter of intent is issued, it would be a while before the final letter of approval and an actual DTH license is handed to Space TV. The sources say that the last set of clarifications, sought by the government, came in from Space TV yesterday.

 

 

This is likely to end a long wait for Space TV, and Star in particular, which has been in quest of a DTH licence since 2002. In between, the application of Space had to be made afresh in 2003 as the government felt that in the earlier version of Space TV, the Indian partnership was more of a dummy.

The government had announced a set of DTH guidelines towards the end of 2001 by which time quite a few interested players had already got frustrated and abandoned their plans to make forays into the DTH segment.

This included the Malaysia-based Measat, which had a memorandum of understanding with Doordarshan for a DTH venture in the mid-1990s.

In January 2004, Tata Sons announced the formation of a joint venture with the Star Group for launching a DTH television platform in India.

The announcement had stated that the Tata Group and Star Group looked forward to building India’s largest digital television platform and offering a range of channels including exclusive channels, with interactive features and services.

The project cost is estimated to be Rs 16 billion ($1= Rs 43.75).

Information collated by indiantelevision.com indicates that the I&B ministry had raised a series of objections on the Space TV application even after the Tatas joined hands with the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star for a JV.

One of the many issues raised by the I&B ministry was that in the Space TV project, cleared by other ministires, including finance and home, the shareholders' agreement was in favour of Star, which amounted to foreign control.

A government official told indiantelevision.com late this evening that Space TV has written to them saying that "changes have been made" in the company set-up in the line with the I&B ministry's suggestions.

"Before a final clearance is given, it needs to be seen whether Space TV has actually carried out those changes in letter and spirit of the guidelines," the official added.

The Space TV case became so controversial that 37-odd questions on the company has been asked to the present government by Members of Parliament on the floor of the House, while recently about nine MPs had written to the PMO on the issue.

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