Seven regional news channels of Zee Media are getting a free ride on the government-owned free-to-air dish platform and haven't been made to pay the mandatory carriage fees, multiple broadcasters have alleged.
The seven channels are:
1. Zee UP/UK
3. Zee punjab / Haryana / Himachal
4. Zee Bihar / Jharkhand
5. Zee Kalak
6. Zee Salam
7. Zee MP/Chattisgarh
A senior broadcast executive at a regional channel told BestMediaInfo.com (on the condition of anonymity) that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) had written to Dish TV, asking them not to leave seven regional news channels from Zee Media unencrypted on GSAT15 because of which they have become available free of cost on DD FreeDish.
“But Dish TV is taking shelter in the loopholes of the law and resisting the government notice that asks it remove those channels from the Freedish,” the executive said.
For the MPEG-2 slots vacated by the channels such as 9X Jalwa, Cinema TV, JK24x7, Showbox, Filamchi, ABP Ganga, Enterr10 Bangla, Sangeet Bangla, Abzy Dhakad, Prasar Bharti held its 45th e-auction on June 1.
Star India, Viacom18, Zee Entertainment and Sony Pictures Networks India made a comeback on DD FreeDish for their second rung general entertainment channels Star Utsav, Colors Rishtey, Zee Anmol, Zee Anmol Cinema and Sony Pal at a base price in the excess of Rs 15 crore each. The base price for regional news channels is usually more than Rs 7 crore for a year.
“In such a situation, it is a big unfair advantage that Dish TV is taking for seven regional news channels of Zee News, which is owned by the same management,” a broadcaster accused.
On April 30, the MIB had issued the draft policy guidelines for uplinking and downlinking of television channels.
The draft clearly mentions, “Uplinking to be done either in C Band (Indian or foreign satellite) or Ku Band (only on Indian Satellite), but not simultaneously in both.”
For the record, Dish TV has two licences – (a) A DTH licence (for retransmission of TV channels) and a teleport licence (for transmission of TV channels). Dish TV also has a bandwidth on GSAT15 satellite for both these operations.
DD FreeDish is available in Ku-Band on GSAT-15 (at 93.5°E). This Ku-Band DTH service provides the TV coverage throughout the Indian territory (except Andaman and Nicobar Islands).
The smaller broadcasters are currently pulling out of the DD FreeDish platform as the government has not given them a temporary waiver in the carriage fees and instead offered a moratorium. The broadcasters have been seeking a waiver as their advertising revenues have turned almost zero because of the economic downturn caused by Covid-19.
In February, BestMediaInfo.com reported that rival platforms were accusing Dish TV of uplinking seven news channels of Zee Media in an unencrypted format to make them available on DD Freedish.
Dish TV had said there was nothing illegal in uplinking free-to-air channels in an unencrypted format as the law allowed it.
Dish TV was granted teleport licence in both C Band and Ku band and hence it was uplinking the channels on C Band as well as Ku band, the platform had told BestMediaInfo.com.
The rival platforms, however, maintained Dish TV was in the wrong as the seven Zee News channels made available on DD FreeDish are pay. Even if those channels were FTA, they cannot be left unencrypted on GSAT15.