Star TV seeks satellite uplinking facility

NEW DELHI DEC. 6. Notwithstanding the policy which allows all television channels to uplink from India irrespective of their ownership or management control, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has decided to seek the Cabinet's view on Star TV's application for the facility.

Caught in a situation that it had not anticipated while opening up satellite uplinking completely in July 2000, the I&B Ministry thought it best to approach the Cabinet, given the ticklish nature of the issue at hand. The Minister, according to officials, felt it would be advisable that the decision be a collective one of the Cabinet rather than that of the Ministry alone.

Star TV is the first completely foreign-owned news channel to apply for uplinking permission in anticipation of the end of its contract with NDTV in the first quarter of next year. All the other foreign-owned channels which have been given uplinking permission primarily deal in entertainment programmes.

While confirming the decision to go to the Cabinet with a note, the I&B Minister, Sushma Swaraj, however, refused to divulge details about the proposal.

With some members of the Cabinet apparently in favour of providing a level playing field to both print and broadcasting sectors, there is speculation of a bid to put in place safeguards — similar to those in the case of FDI in news and current affairs publications — for foreign-owned news channels also.

Closed to private players till June 1998, satellite uplinking was first partially opened through the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited to Indian companies with at least 80 per cent Indian equity and Indian management control.

In March 1999, all Indian broadcasting companies were permitted to uplink through their own earth stations. This policy was further liberalised in July 2000 to allow foreign-owned companies.

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