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With new govt order, Zee can no longer broadcast 10 of its regional channels on DD Free Dish

In an order Friday, the I&B ministry said Zee accessed DD Free Dish’s vast audiences without paying necessary auction fees. This comes after competitors raised the issue with govt.

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New Delhi: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Friday revoked Zee Media Corporation’s permission to uplink to Ku band satellite frequency — a development that means that the network will be unable to broadcast 10 of its regional channels appearing on DD Free Dish, a direct-to-home (DTH) service.

The I&B ministry said in an order that the Zee network has breached its uplink and downlink rules that helps them access vast audiences on DD Free Dish — a free-to-air satellite television provider owned and operated by Public Service Broadcaster Prasar Bharati. 

The I&B Ministry’s decision comes after repeated requests from Prasar Bharati and other private competitors to take action against Zee media, which has been accused by its competitors of freely accessing the DD route and its audiences without paying the necessary auction fee. 

Sources in the know told ThePrint that this decision was made to ensure a level playing field for Zee’s direct competitors. 

ThePrint reached Zee Media via email, but had not received a response at the time of publishing this report. This story will be updated as and when a response is received.

Since Zee didn’t buy enough slots in the Prasar Bharati’s e-auction for DD Free Dish, its actions have reportedly cost the exchequer an estimated revenue of Rs 100 crore. 

The Subhash Chandra-backed media group had previously sought approvals for dual transmission for uplinking from both Ku band and C band.

C-band and Ku–band are both frequencies used for satellite communication. A downlink is a link from a satellite down to ground stations or receivers, while an uplink is a link from a ground station up to a satellite.

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What did the order say?

According to the order Friday, a show cause notice was sent to the network after which representatives were called in for a hearing on 16 September. 

In its response, Zee denied the allegations and claimed they had sought permission for Ku band because it allowed smaller dish antennas for its application, which makes it cheaper and easier to install.

“It is noticed that the channels were getting available on DD Free Dish because of proximity and co-location of transponders of both DD Free Dish and Dish TV on the same satellite i.e. GSAT 15 Satellite and non-encryption of the signals by both of them (sic),” the order read.

“M/s ZMCL was having a competitive advantage vis-a-vis other private broadcasters (who are not on Ku Band) and having a leverage of a large subscriber base of DD. The Ministry also received references from Prasar Bharati and many private broadcasters regarding this unfair advantage to M/s ZMCL due to permission of simultaneous uplinking of 10 TV Channels on Ku-Band in addition to uplinking in C-Band,” the order added.

The ministry now intends to do an overhaul of the existing guidelines, sources in the I&B ministry told ThePrint. It will also make it mandatory for all networks to specify what band they intend to use, sources said.

Since the signals are supposed to be encrypted, the government said it hopes that unauthorised signal reception could be curbed.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: I&B Ministry warns mainstream TV news against using ‘unparliamentary language and hyperbole’


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