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NEW DELIHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal seeking to revise guidelines governing direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting services in India. The decision, slated to come into effect as and when revised norms are issued by the ministry of information and broadcasting, are aimed at ensuring stability and new investments in the sector along with employment opportunities, the government said in a statement on Wednesday.

As per the revised guidelines, DTH licenses will now be issued for a period of 20 years instead of 10 years, as is the norm now, and may be renewed for 10 years at a time.

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License fee which has been revised from 10% of gross revenue to 8% of AGR (adjusted gross revenue) will be collected on quarterly basis instead of annually. The proposed reduction is intended to align the license fee with the regime applicable to the telecom sector and the difference may enable DTH providers to invest in more coverage leading to increased operations and higher growth and thereby enhanced and regular payment of license fee by them.

DTH players seem to be taking well to the guidelines.

“We are grateful to Shri Javadekar for resolving the long-standing impasse on the DTH license policy which will provide certainty to the sector. We look forward to a level playing field via parity of licence fee with Cable TV which too is licensed by MIB and follows the same prices and margins as regulated by TRAI’s NTO," Harit Nagpal, managing director and CEO, Tata Sky, said.

DTH operators will also be allowed to operate platform channels to a maximum of 5% of their total channel carrying capacity and a one-time non-refundable registration fee of Rs10,000 per channel shall be charged from an operator.

Players willing to share DTH platform and transport stream of TV channels on voluntary basis will be allowed to do so. Distributors of TV channels will be permitted to share common hardware for their subscriber management system (SMS) and conditional access system (CAS) applications. This may bring more efficient use of scarce satellite resources and reduce the costs borne by consumers.

The cap of 49% FDl (foreign direct investment) will be aligned with the extant DPIIT (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) policy on FDl as amended from time to time. Adoption of the extant FDI policy will bring in more foreign investment into the country, the government statement said.

The Union Cabinet also approved the merger of four of its film media units-Films Division, Directorate of Film Festivals, National Film Archives of India, and Children's Film Society--with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Ltd. "While undertaking this exercise of convergence, interests of the employees of all the concerned Media Units will be fully taken care and no employee will be retrenched," the government said.

The merger is aimed at better co-ordination and utilisation of resources leading to reduction in duplication of activities and direct savings to the exchequer.

The umbrella organisation NFDC will promote, produce, and preserve film content - all under one management. The vision of the new entity will be to ensure balanced and focused development of Indian cinema in all its genres--feature films, including films and content for the OTT platforms, children's content, animation, short films and documentaries.

The Union Cabinet also approved the appointment of a transaction advisor and legal advisor to advise transfer of assets and employees and to oversee all aspects of operationalistion of the merger.

PTI quoted union I&B minister Prakash Javadekar as saying changes in the guidelines would allow 100% FDI in the DTH sector. While the ministry of commerce had allowed the same earlier, the MIB guidelines needed to be changed.

“Changes have been approved for 100% FDI in the sector. Till now, the FDI was limited to 49%," Javadekar said adding that Trai was consulted in this regard.

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