Private broadcasters resist fee proposal for DD Direct+

NEW DELHI: Indian pubcaster Prasar Bharati?s bid to demand carriage fee from broadcasters to be on its DTH platform, DD Direct+, has met with initial resistance from private sector players.

This was amply clear in a meeting that was held today at the Prasar Bharati headquarters here to discuss the fee issue with private broadcasters who are already present on DD Direct+.

The private sector channels, which have been on DD Direct+ for over a year now, feel that the demand for a carriage fee on the pubcaster?s DTH platform is ?unjustified.?

According to a representative of a private broadcaster, ?We had assisted Prasar Bharati to launch its DTH service keeping national interest in mind. Now that the service is doing well, this sudden demand is unjustified.?

Early April, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma, while making a presentation before the media during the announcement of its annual financial result, had said there is a proposal to charge private channels on DD Direct+ an annual fee of Rs. 10 million from May when the total number of channels would be increased to 51.

The private broadcasters on DD Direct+ are understood to have argued today at the meeting that as a gesture of goodwill towards them and their contribution in the success of the DTH Platform, they should not be charged any fee.

?If at all Prasar Bharati wishes to charge a carriage fee, it should do so from newcomers who join the platform now,? a general entertainment channel representative said.

Prasar Bharati is India?s public service broadcaster and manages Doordarshan and All India Radio. The DTH service, which has over 900,000 subscribers as per claims made, doesn?t charge the consumer any monthly subscription fee. The hardware comes at a cost of approximately Rs. 4,000.

Publicly funded Prasar Bharati has said there?s a long queue of Indian and foreign broadcasters waiting to hop on to DD Direct+ in an efforts to establish their presence in a market where all TV homes number over 90 million. Of this, 61 million are C&S homes.

The proposal to levy a fee to ride the DD Direct+ bandwagon is also an effort of the pubcaster to increase its annual income, which falls much short of its total yearly expenditure. For the year 2005-06, ended 31 March, the pubcaster's revenues stood Rs. 12.38 billion, up a whopping 67 per cent from the Rs 8.31 billion it earned previous year.

Of this, national broadcaster Doordarshan accounted for Rs 9.6 billion riding heavily on cricket and Hindi movies. Most significant was the growth on the radio side though, with All India Radio registering a 59.6 per cent jump in revenues at Rs 2.7 billion.

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