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Zee Media takes on government; challenges I&B ministry’s order in Delhi HC

The matter was heard in Delhi HC on Wednesday and directed to be listed in the Divisional Bench where another PIL in the matter is listed. The next date of hearing is October 6

After the government withdrew the permission given to Zee Media for uplinking of 10 television channels available in Ku-Band, the news broadcaster has moved the Delhi High Court against the ministry of information and broadcasting

Last week, the government had asked ZMCL to remove its ten regional news channels from KU Band (a form of satellite frequency) on GSAT-15 Satellite, that was making these accessible on DD Freedish and giving the media company an unfair advantage over its competitors.

As per the government, the presence of these ten channels were causing a loss of around Rs 100 crore a year to exchequer, along with a loss of viewership and revenue for the smaller regional broadcasters, as they were being broadcast without paying the auction and license fee to Prasar Bharati that conducts annual auction for DD Freedish slot.

The matter was heard in Delhi HC on Wednesday and directed to be listed in the Divisional Bench where another PIL in the matter is listed. The next date of hearing is October 6.

In its order, the government had noticed that the permission to link via KU band was giving unfair advantage to Zee media over competition and revoking the permission will help create a level playing field.

Commenting on the order, several broadcasters including ABP Network, News24 and other regional players had said that it was a step in the right direction and will create a level playing field.

Ten regional news channels of ZMCL namely "Zee Hindustan", "Zee Rajasthan", Zee Punjab Haryana Himachal", "Zee Bihar Jharkhand", "Zee Madhya Pradesh Chhattisgarh", "Zee Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand", "Zee Salam", "Zee 24 Kalak", "Zee 24 Taas" and "Zee Odisha" (now "Zee Delhi NCR Haryana") have been asked to be taken off the KU band uplinking.

ZMCL applied (in 2019) for permission to uplink the 10 channels simultaneously in Ku Band on GSAT -15 satellite from the teleport of Dish TV India Ltd. The justification given by the applicant was that many operators have desired to receive channels in the Ku-Band…who, in many cases, do not own or operate a C-Band receiving Dish..due to their location in crowded locales where such installations are not possible. The applicant further mentioned that Ku-band allows smaller dish antennas for its application, hence installation is cheaper and easy and it incurs lesser terrestrial interference," the MIB order had said.

On request of ZMCL, the ministry had granted permission for uplinking of the channels simultaneously in Ku Band on GSAT 15 Satellite through the teleport of Dish TV India Ltd but subsequently noticed that these channels were available on Doordarshan’s direct-to-home platform FreeDish as well. This happened because of the proximity and co-location of transponders of both DD FreeDish and Dish TV on the same GSAT 15 Satellite and non-encryption of signals by both.

“Due to availability of channels on DD FreeDish, ZMCL was having a competitive advantage vis-a-vis other private broadcasters (who are not on Ku Band)..besides the leverage of large subscriber base of DD,” the order added.

The ministry also received references from Prasar Bharati and many private broadcasters regarding this unfair advantage to ZMCL.

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