Prasar Bharati has set up a committee to explore an alternative way of allowing private TV channels to use its DD Free Dish DTH service without going through an auction process.
Traditionally, private channels have to pay crores of rupees per year if they want to get a slot on the free satellite broadcasting (DTH) service operated by Prasar Bharati Corporation.
The public service broadcaster is now thinking of bypassing the auction process and allocating the slots using ‘alternative methods’ in the new year, which begins tomorrow.
The last auction under the traditional method was conducted in Feb/March of this year, and 53 private channels won the right to transmit on the platform.
The bids ranged from Rs 3 cr for non-Hindi channels to Rs 15 cr for Hindi channels.
At an average of Rs 12 cr, these channels would pay over Rs 600 cr for the rights to broadcast on DD Free Dish.
Channels such as B4U Kadak, B4U Movies, Blue, Cinema TV India, Enterr10, Maha Movie, Manoranjan TV and Movie Plus were among those who participated in the auction and won the right to continue transmission in the new year.
Another online auction was planned for early April. However, because of COVID-19 pandemic, that plan seems to have been junked for now.
A committee has now been set up to come up with new ways to allocate space on the network.
The committee’s job is to “consider the issues arising out of COVID-19 and suggest alternatives in respect of carriage of private TV channels on DD Free Dish” for the coming financial year, according to the terms of reference setting up the committee.
It was not made clear as to what will be the status of those who won the recent e-auction, but they are unlikely to see any changes to their status.
The four member committee is entirely made up of Doordarshan and Prasar Bharati officials.
Separately, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry gave a one-time waiver for four TV channels — Star Utsav, Sony Pal, Colors Rishtey and Zee Anmol — for converting themselves from pay channels to free-to-air channels with effect from March 30.
The ministry also allowed these channels to remain part of both pay channel packages as well as free-to-air packages at the same time.
Under TRAI’s tariff rules published in 2017, a channel can be part of free-to-air packs or pay channel packs, but not both.
However, the I&B ministry said it is allowing these channels to remain part of both pay channel and free channel packs so as to “to break the chain of transmission of COVID-19 in the country”.
It also gave them exemption from having to give notice periods and so on.
“The regulations/tariff orders of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) require Broadcasters to give 30 days’ prior notice to TRAI in case the Broadcasters propose to change the a la carte or bouquet price of any of their channels or convert any channels to free-to-air (FTA).
“Thereafter, a notice is also required to be given to DPOs (Cable/DTH) and the prices of the relevant bouquets will have to be reset as FTA channels and pay channels cannot form part of the same bouquet. In the present circumstances, and in the larger public interest, this requirement, in consultation with TRAI, is relaxed,” the ministry said in its order.
The ministry also “requested” cable and DTH operators to ensure that they carry these channels.
Due to yesterday’s special order from the I&B ministry, these four channels can, if they wish, bid for a slot on DD Free Dish.