Monday, May 11, 2009

Radio on DTH splits broadcasters via Alokesh Gupta of DX India

Nivedita Mookerji
Monday, May 4, 2009 3:48 IST

New Delhi: Should radio be a part of the direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting
bouquet? The question has the country's media industry sharply
divided.Though some DTH platforms offer radio (mainly state-owned All India
Radio and satellite radio WorldSpace), the government is yet to take a
decision on whether to allow such a service. One of the issues raised by
some media players is that FM radio licences are city or town specific, and
that offering FM stations on DTH could be a violation of government norms.
Replying to a consultation paper floated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority
of India (Trai) on the matter, WorldSpace has said that carriage of radio
channels as part of DTH TV service is well-accepted in most parts of the
world, including the US, Europe and the Middle East. According to
WorldSpace, radio channels that are approved by the competent authorities to
offer national level services may be permitted to provide content to DTH
operators in India.
FM radio player Entertainment Network India Ltd (ENIL) wants radio on the
DTH platforms for greater reach. Unlike TV signals, radio requires lower
bandwidth. "So, there won't be much additional burden on carrier capacity
and on transponder bandwidth," ENIL has said.On the other hand, Radio
Mid-Day, another private FM radio player, has said that DTH service
providers "cannot provide our Mumbai radio stations to their customers
outside Mumbai." Also, any service by DTH "to provide our channels should be
after taking our prior consent and after paying requisite fee," it said.Dish
TV, the first DTH operator, has said that DTH operators should not be
allowed to provide radio channels as it may be a violation of the licensing
conditions and uplinking/ downlinking guidelines. If DTH operators are
allowed to offer radio stations, many government norms need to be reviewed
and changed, Dish TV has said.The Zee Turner Alliance, too, has opposed the
idea. "DTH platform owners should not be permitted to carry radio channels
as the licensing for the radio services is separate and distinct," it has
said. It has argued permitting radio channels on DTH would result in
infringing of territorial limits specified by the existing radio
licences.Other DTH service providers, including TataSky, Reliance Big TV,
and Sun Direct, have however, stand in favour.TataSky has stated that it is
a common practice in many other countries to offer radio on DTH and even on
cable. There is no conflict of business interest with an existing radio
system as DTH is a paid service, it has said.
Reliance has compared this scenario with the telecom sector. "Like in the
case of telecom service providers, which can provide mobile TV in addition
to traditional voice and data, DTH operators can carry TV signals containing
audio and video, and also audio signals of a radio channel," Reliance has

Alokesh Gupta
New Delhi

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