Prasar Bharati blacks out five channels from its DTH

Prasar Bharati blacks out five channels from its DTH

New Delhi: Taking a tough stand, the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has dropped five channels from its DTH (direct to home) service “DD Direct Plus" for not paying the carriage fees.

The broadcaster blacked out Aaj Tak, Headlines Today, TV9, Akash Bangla and Star Utsav after they failed to pay the carriage fee despite repeated notices and extensions.

Earlier the public broadcaster, which claims to be the largest DTH service beaming into more than 5 million Indian homes, had given a deadline of August 15 to these five channels to pay up. The deadline was extended several times on their request.

“They probably thought Prasar Bharati would not do anything. But we decided to act tough and dropped them. After all we have to meet our operational expenses also," a senior Prasar Bharati official said.

The broadcaster said sufficient time was given to these channels and as a policy decision it was decided that DD Direct Plus would not carry any channel which is free.

Under the latest rules, a domestic channel is required to pay Rs25 lakh per annum as carriage fee whereas for the foreign channels it is Rs50 lakh per annum.

DD Direct Plus, which positions itself as the world’s only free DTH, does not charge any subscription fee from the viewer as a matter of policy.

All channels that are shown on this are free to air channels. It has no pay channel on board.

Miffed at the defaulting channels’ decision to be blacked out than pay up, the official said,“It is big mistake they are doing. If they think we are not doing so well, they are wrong. They cannot ignore the fact that we have the widest reach."

“We are determined to come up in a big way," the official said adding the broadcaster is tying with more and more free to air channels get them on the DD Direct Plus platform.

After dropping five channels, the public broadcaster’s DTH is left with 17 Doordarshan channels, one IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University), two Parliament channels, 18 private Indian channels and two foreign channels - a total of forty channels.

A recent TAM survey has put the DD Direct Plus’s spread to over 3.5 million homes but Prasar Bharti insists it is much higher than 5 million as TAM does not have enough survey infrastructure to count those which in the rural areas. TAM puts Zee’s Dish TV as “far down second" and TataSky as number three.

Earlier the carriage fee was to the tune of Rs1 crore, but when most of the private channels expressed their inability to pay the amount, with some of them willing to quit DD’s DTH, it was brought down to Rs25 lakh.