Foreign public broadcasters quit DD Free Dish over fee hike

Foreign public broadcasters end their contractual agreements with the DTH operator after Prasar Bharati raises the carriage free from Rs1.5 core to Rs3.5 crore


DD Free Dish conducts electronic auctions for private television channels to bid for slots on its platform. Foreign public broadcasters, however, don’t participate in the auction.
DD Free Dish conducts electronic auctions for private television channels to bid for slots on its platform. Foreign public broadcasters, however, don’t participate in the auction.

New Delhi: In what may be a setback to state broadcaster Doordarshan’s free-to-air (FTA) and direct-to-home (DTH) platform DD Free Dish, foreign public service broadcasters Japanese Broadcasting Corp. and Australian Broadcasting Corp. have terminated their contractual agreements with the DTH operator.

The organisations will not operate their channels on DD Free Dish anymore.

DD Free Dish, which currently operates a total of 80 channels, had five foreign public broadcasters on its platform till January 2016, including Russian television network-run Russia Today, Paris-based news and current affairs television channel France 24, Germany’s international broadcaster DW TV Asia+, Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC+) and Japanese Broadcasting Corp.’s NHK.

According to a senior Doordarshan official, who declined to be named, NHK quit the platform in January 2016, while ABC+ will terminate the agreement on 31 August. “ABC+ was scheduled to renew its deal in July. But, the broadcaster hasn’t done so and will be leaving by the end of August. Other broadcasters have also expressed their unwillingness to continue with DD,” the official said.

This comes after the internal finance division of Prasar Bharati increased the fee for foreign public broadcasters to operate their channels on Free Dish from Rs.1.5 crore to Rs.3.5 crore in December 2015. “The broadcasters had asked Doordarshan to reconsider the prices but their propositions are still on hold,” the official said.

When contacted, Rajeev Singh, member (finance) at Prasar Bharati, declined to comment on the matter.

DD Free Dish conducts electronic auctions for private television channels to bid for slots on its platform. Foreign public broadcasters, however, don’t participate in the auction. “They are given the slots at a fixed price. They don’t need to be a part of the auction,” the official said.

The official added that foreign public broadcasters quitting is a huge loss to Doordarshan. “Apart from finances, foreign broadcasters bring in a lot of diversity to the platform. Certain programmes of these broadcasters have been well-received among the masses,” the official said.

Free Dish has 25 Doordarshan channels, including the official channels of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. In the latest round of e-auction concluded on 28 July, DD Free Dish added Zee News, owned by Zee Media Corp. Ltd, to its bouquet.

Other television broadcasters on Free Dish include news channels like Aaj Tak, ABP News, News 24 and entertainment channels like Star Utsav, Sony Pal, Viacom18’s Rishtey and Rishtey Cineplex.

The platform has, time and again, announced its plans to add 24 new channels, increasing the number to 104 this year.

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