Oct 10, 2008

Entertainment - Asianet,Jaya TV in a fix over bandwideth directives

MUMBAI: Broadcasters, such as Asianet and Jaya TV, have found themselves in a fix over DoT and the ministry of communication and IT demand that they
vacate the extended ‘C’ band and move to the normal ‘C’ band to accommodate new broadband services, including WiMAX.

With DoT only extending their lease for not more than two to three months at a time, broadcasters on this band have hit the panic button, searching helter skelter to find alternate space in another satellite where the C band is available.

The move by the ministry is strongly being opposed by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) which has termed it “unfair and unjust”. On behalf of the broadcasting and cable industry, the IBF is lobbying hard and urging the Ministry of Communications & IT to find other bands such as the 2.29-2.48 MHz to accommodate WiMAX.

Meanwhile, the south Indian regional channels, who will be the most impacted, have been unable to get alternative spectrum in the normal ‘C’ band on Indian satellites and offers from foreign satellites are of no use with the local ISRO office at Bangalore stating that there would be problems in getting permission to use such satellites. The other issue is that instead of the long-term permissions they were earlier issued, the office of the Wireless Planning Commission (WPC) is now giving quarterly permissions causing serious problems for broadcasters including 24-hour news channels.

“We are under tremendous pressure considering that we are getting only short-term renewals, a maximum of three months. We have been trying very hard to accommodate ourselves in alternate satellites. But there seems to be a tremendous shortage of space, which is resulting in transponder costs being hiked, which in turn will effect the profitability of our operations,” a Jaya TV official said.

The IBF is also arguing that it has been established in many countries especially in South Asia that services like WiMAX cause serious interference in broadcasting signals. Many instances have been cited in the ‘position paper’ prepared by the International Association of Satellite Communication Industry. One such example is of an experiment in Hong Kong, where television signals feeding 300,000 households got knocked off the air. Further, Australia and New Zealand have also banned the import of all 3.4 GHz band Wimax equipment. Asia Pacific Broadcasters Union (ABU) has indicated that if the Wimax equipment is allowed to operate in the 3.4 GHz band, the use of the band will be impractical for satellite operators. In fact, all the satellite operators associations, including the Asia pacific Broadcasters union have taken an identical position in this matter.

“In spite of such information, if the government is in a hurry to evict incumbent services like broadcasting, of late considered as an essential necessity in the lives of almost half of India’s population after roti, kapda aur makan, to accommodate broadband services will not only be unjust and unfair but a serious situation may have to be faced at the ground level throughout the country when millions of dissatisfied TV viewers could create problems for around forty to fifty thousand local cable operators through whom they get the TV programmes,” said an emphatic Naresh Chahal, secretary general, IBF.

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