New DTH policy bonanza for operators likely by year-end

New policy may see licensing period upped from 10 years

NEW DELHI: If all goes well, India’s DTH operators may have something to cheer about in the new year. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) wants an updated and tweaked policy to go for cabinet approval by the year end.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of CII Big Picture Summit 2018 here today, MIB Secretary Amit Khare said the new DTH policy is almost ready and the goal is to “send it for Cabinet approval” by December-end.

Explaining the rationale behind the timing, the senior government official said the interim or temporary licenses, being presently handed to some of the biggest DTH operators, will expire this year-end and that makes it necessary to close the issue as soon as possible.

Though he refused to divulge details of the decades old DTH policy that’s being updated keeping the present scenario in mind, including fast changing technology and a slowing economy, Khare did admit that some sops would be handed to the DTH operators.

However, he refused to commit on the fact whether those sops would include financial rationalization too like slashing of the annual revenue sharing with the government that is calculated at the rate of 10 per cent.

In the past, the DTH industry has demanded, among other things, cut in annual revenue share percentage to 6-8 per cent and other financial adjustments (like removal of content acquisition cost and an adjusted gross revenue) while calculating gross revenues.

For example, Jawahar Goel, managing director of India’s biggest DTH operator (in terms of subscribers) Dish TV had written to policy-makers in October highlighting once again the industry’s woes and pleading for rationalization of costs and taxes.

Even as India’s DTH industry has witnessed some consolidation, growth has been sluggish and ARPUs continue to be low with newer technologies throwing up additional avenues for content distribution forcing most legacy distributors to change tactics and business plans.

Meanwhile, Khare did hint that the licensing period of DTH operators could be increased from the present 10 years. Operators like Dish TV, Tata Sky and Sun Digital, for example, are being handed by MIB interim licenses for a short period of time.

Incidentally, telecoms and broadcast regulator TRAI in one of its recommendations had suggested increasing the DTH license period to 20 years from the present 10 years, apart from other sops like lower revenue sharing percentage and a one-time entry fee of Rs 100 million.

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