TDSAT to Star: give channels to Dish TV

MUMBAI: In another 15 days time, all Star channels may well be made available to the country's only private direct-to-home operator Dish TV.

Subhash Chandra's DTH service Dish TV has won a favourable judgment from by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) in this regard. As per the tribunal's directive, Star India will have to distribute the signals of all its channels to Dish TV.

In an order passed this morning, TDSAT, while directing the sector regulator to set a benchmark for channel prices for DTH services, said that Star channels should be made available to Dish TV at half the price at which they are available to cable operators.

The reason for this, according to TDSAT, is that DTH is an addressable system where loss of revenue down the value chain is negligible if not zero.

An interpretation of this observation on rates would mean that all Star channels (comprising bouquets I & II) will cost Dish TV Rs 27 exclusive of taxes, as against the cable operators paying Rs 54 per subscriber/per month.

While issuing the order, which had been kept reserved since 5 July when arguments concluded, TDSAT said, "We have no basis to lay down the actual rates per channel, which we feel is the prerogative of Trai. However, to begin with, we feel that 50 per cent of the rates being charged for cable platform be made applicable to the DTH platform."

Reacting to the developments, a jubilant Zee Telefilms vice-chairman and Dish TV business head Jawahar Goel said, "The verdict vindicates our position. We will be sending a letter to Star by tomorrow requesting them to conclude an agreement for their channels." Everybody should respect the law of the land, Goel added.

Said a Star India spokesperson, "We have received the judgment of the TDSAT in the matter of ASC Enterprises vs. Star India Pvt. Ltd. earlier today and we are now in the process of examining it in detail.

"The judgment comes at an opportune time as we believe it will help in clearing the air on a number of critical areas that impact addressable systems in general and DTH in particular and will be a positive impetus to their development. However, it appears to us that there may be some specific areas within the judgment that will require further clarification.

"Our intention is to seek clarification on these areas at the earliest opportunity and make a response accordingly. Star has been and will continue to be an active supporter of all addressable platforms and will work with them to ensure that the viewer's interests are best served."

Interestingly, TDSAT has also said that no minimum guarantee needs to be given by Dish TV for the Star channels and the payments would be made on actual number of subscribers.

It directed Dish to submit a list of subscribers from the subscriber management system (SMS) every month to Star --- a model that TDSAT said would be applicable to all DTH operators entering into commercial deals with broadcasters.

Respondent Star had pointed out that the minimum guarantee requirement is an internationally prevalent norm in the DTH industry as it incentivizes the DTH operator to ensure higher subscribers.

TDSAT, in its order has said that in case of any denial of the signals, the DTH operator may approach the tribunal for further relief.

For the record, Chandra's ASC Enterprises, which holds a DTH licence, had moved TDSAT alleging that Star India was delaying making available its channels in breach of a regulatory order that states all content should be made available to all platform on a non-discriminatory basis.

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