Zee Media's permission to transmit channels in Ku Band, revoked

MIB has ordered Zee Media to pull back 10 channels available in Ku band satellite frequency

Mumbai: The disgruntled TV networks couldn’t be any happier. In what seems to be a relief for most TV networks, an order passed by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) on 23 September, Zee Media’s authorisation to transmit 10 television channels available in Ku band on GSAT -15 satellite has been revoked. As noticed by MIB, the media conglomerate was gaining an unfair advantage over its competitors, as these channels were also accessible on DD Free Dish, the DTH platform of Doordarshan.

Since quite some time, a lot of the TV networks had been vocal about the fact that Zee Media was reaping in undue advantage of having its channels being accessed on DD Free Dish. Infact, Prasar Bharati (PB) had also asked Indian TV viewership measurement body Barc to take necessary action against Zee Media regarding the same. But it was all in vain.

Ten regional news channels of Zee Media namely Zee Hindustan, Zee Rajasthan, Zee Punjab Haryana Himachal, Zee Bihar Jharkhand, Zee Madhya Pradesh Chhattisgarh, Zee Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand, Zee Salam, Zee 24 Kalak, Zee 24 Taas, and Zee Odisha (now Zee Delhi NCR Haryana) were permitted to operate on C-Band as per MIB’s permission, stated the recent order.

The statement further mentioned, “Zee Media applied (in 2019) for permission to uplink the 10 channels simultaneously in Ku Band on GSAT -15 satellite from the teleport of Dish TV. The justification given by the applicant seeking uplinking on Ku-band was that many operators have desired to receive channels in the Ku-Band. These operators desire to receive only one of two channels of the Zee Media in many cases, and do not own or operate a C-Band receiving dish of 4 Meters (16 feet) due to their location in crowded locales where such installations are not possible. The applicant further mentioned that Ku-band allows smaller dish antennas for its application, hence installation is cheaper and easier and it incurs lesser terrestrial interference.”

On the request of Zee Media, MIB had granted permission to the media giant in 2019 for uplinking of the channels simultaneously in Ku Band on GSAT 15 Satellite through the teleport of Dish TV. However, subsequently, it came to the notice of the Ministry that these 10 channels of Zee Media are getting available on DD Free Dish.

On analysis of the dispute, it was 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, that is GSAT 15 Satellite and non-encryption of the signals by both of them.

“Due to availability of the channels of Zee Media on DD Free Dish, Zee Media was having a competitive advantage vis-a-vis other private broadcasters (who are not on Ku Band) and having a leverage of the large subscriber base of DD. The Ministry also received references from Prasar Bharati and many private broadcasters regarding this unfair advantage to Zee Media due to permission of simultaneous uplinking of 10 TV Channels on Ku-Band in addition to uplinking in C-Band,” the statement pointed out.

Understanding that uplinking simultaneously to the two bands is prohibited, Zee Media stated that the situation had arisen due to colocation of DD Free Dish and Dish TV on the same satellite i.e. GSAT 15 Satellite and non-encryption of the signals by Prasar Bharti which is a violation of the DTH guidelines.

“As per the Policy Guidelines for downlinking, the broadcasters should provide signals to Distribution Platform Operators (that is MSO/DTH/HITS/IPTV) only and are not supposed to reach consumers directly. Due to the permission granted by MIB (in 2019), channels of Zee Media are directly available to the consumers due to co-location. In this regard, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has observed that a registered channel shall give its signals only to an authorized Distribution Platform Operator (DPO) (registered cable operator or DTH operator or Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Service Provider or a HITS operator). However, because of the fact that the channels of Zee Media are unencrypted and are on Ku Band, they are being received by the subscribers of DD Free Dish directly and not through any DPO. Hence, this arrangement is in violation of the policy guidelines for downlinking of a TV channel.  In order to provide a level playing field to all the stakeholders in the TV channel industry, the decision for grant of permission to Zee Media for simultaneous uplinking of its 10 TV channels in Ku Band on GSAT- 15 Satellite through the teleport of Dish TV has been reviewed and withdrawn with immediate effect,” the statement said.

For the record, the statement also made clear that Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body setup under the Prasar Bharati Act. Further, DD Free Dish has been set-up by Prasar Bharati with the approval of the Union Cabinet. The DTH Guidelines and the policy guidelines for uplinking and downlinking are applicable to only those TV Channels/distribution platforms for which any permission or license is granted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Since DD Free Dish is a special dispensation, approved by the Union Cabinet, these guidelines of MIB are not applicable to it.

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