Law ministry likely to give opinion on DTH guidelines review

MUMBAI: Even as the government admitted in Parliament yesterday that it has granted six companies licences to operate DTH services in India, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has, reportedly, referred to the Law Ministry a long-pending proposal to review DTH guidelines in the country.

Replying to a question in Lok Sabha or Lower House on the DTH sector, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani, in written statement, said Dish TV, Tata Sky, Sun Direct, Reliance BIG TV, Bharti Telemedia and Videocon d2h are licenced to provide services in India under the DTH guidelines issued on 15 March 2001, which is amended from time to time.

She said that in addition to the private players, pubcaster Doordarshan too operated a free to air DTH services in the country and there was no restriction on the total number of DTH licences.

According to the minister, a licencee, in addition to an initial non-refundable entry fee of Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 million), is required to pay an annual licence fee that amounts to 10 per cent of its gross revenue.

In the meanwhile, the DTH players who had been lobbying for the last 24 months or so for another review of the DTH guidelines, aimed at bringing down the annual revenue sharing percentage to between 6-8 per cent amongst other things, may have to wait for relief.

MIB, which was studying a proposal to review the DTH guidelines based also on some past recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, has already referred or is in the process of referring the matter to the Law Ministry for an opinion, if government sources are to be believed.

Amongst the six DTH licencees, a few are operating on the basis of temporary extension of their licences as the DTH guidelines do not spell out clearly the modalities for licence renewal once the initial 10-year period is over, DTH industry sources explained.

MIB’s indecision on the regulatory review process hasn’t helped the industry much as the sector is witnessing consolidation --- for example, the ongoing Dish TV-Videocon d2h merger and the sale of Reliance’s DTH business to a set of new investors --- apart from the expiry of the 10-year licence period.

Also Read:

DTH's year of consolidation

Recalibrating India’s DTH sector after Airtel DTH-Warburg Pincus deal

Dish TV-Videocon d2h deal on course

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