Free Press Journal

Broadcast min in talks to free DTH spectrum, ease TV licensing


Mumbai: Ministry of information and broadcasting is in talks with other ministries to free spectrum for direct to home broadcasting services and to expedite process of granting of broadcasting licences, Secretary Bimal Julka said at annual FICCI Frames conference.

Julka said the ministry has got several representations from DTH operators about a scarcity of spectrum. DTH companies such as Dish TV, Tata Sky and Sun Direct have been using Ku band for their services due to lack of spectrum in satellite TV band or C band.

“We are engaged in discussions with ISRO and the Department of Space to ensure that this problem gets resolved in coming days,” Julka said.

Echoing concerns of the industry, Julka said the ministry was aware that the grant of broadcasting licence for starting new TV channels was taking too long. He said it was in talks with Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Corporate Affairs to arrive at a possible time table for grant or rejection of TV licences.

At present TV licences can take up to two years due to security checks and other clearances.

Government is also working on removing central sales tax and value added tax on television set top boxes to ensure smooth roll out of digitisation of cable services in India, Julka said.

“An exercise in this regard is underway in consultation with the ministry of finance and we hope we should be able to address this shortly.”

On digitisation, Julka said only about 35 mln homes have been digitised under the programme, and another 110 mln remain to be covered in the next two phases. India needs to complete the digitisation process, including phase 3 and 4 to realise the full benefits, he said.

“The government is fully aware of this fact and we are moving ahead in this direction.” Jehil Thakkar, head of media and entertainment advisory services at KPMG India said the industry was expecting a smoother implementation of digitisation.

“It was a bit of surprise that phase 3 didn’t happen last year…The industry was expecting phase 3 to happen in 2013,” he said. Julka also touched upon the sensitive topic of cross-media ownership that has implications for groups such as Zee, Star, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani group and others.

The matter has been referred to sector regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. “There are no restrictions on cross holdings in broadcasting companies at present.

Some of the companies are broadcasters, DTH operators and also in the cable distribution business. That is an issue which is engaging the attention of the ministry,” he said.