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All private channels must shift to Indian satellites

The union government’s directive to private channels to shift from foreign to Indian satellites begins to kick into effect now. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and the Department of Space (DoS) are preparing an action plan for those channels that beam content overseas so that their footprint abroad is not curtailed by the move.

The MIB has received representations from the broadcasting industry that moving from foreign to Indian satellites could impact the broadcast of their programs abroad and result in breach of contract, given that some channels have signed long-term agreements with the overseas companies.

There are many channels that air their programs in African countries and the Middle East; they may not be able to beam their signals if they shift to Indian satellites. So, a joint action plan (by MIB and DoS) will be prepared on how to roll out the transfer from foreign satellites to Indian ones smoothly over the course of the next 10 years. Private channels will be given details of Indian satellites such as their capacity and reach so that they can make an informed choice. So far, the government has not set any deadline for the channels to make the switch.

By and large, small and regional channels want to stay with Indian satellites, since it is cheaper and saves them the trouble of having to deal with foreign remittances, the foreign companies have to be paid in their currency. Indian television channels operating from foreign satellites are likely to get relaxation of three years for shifting their operations to an Indian satellite. The union government has announced that private television channels would have to switch to Indian satellite platforms for security reasons.

Consequently, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was asked to improve its transponder strength so that the switch could take place in phases. ISRO had written to MIB, seeking easing of norms. It has also suggested that the ministry accord satellite clearance for a period of 3 years. ISRO would not be able to meet the technical requirements of the broadcasters, which also include the footprint and do not have disaster requirement plan in case of technical/power failures hit their transponders. ISRO has formed a committee to reach out to the broadcasters to undertake consultation and understand the end-user requirements. Currently, about 80 per cent of all Indian broadcasters are operating on foreign satellites. Out of 725 active channels, only about 150 are on Indian satellites.

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