(By Nikhil Pahwa and Saptarishi Datta)

Prasar Bharati, India’s public sector broadcasting company is expected to have earned Rs 46 crore from an e-auction for the broadcast slots kept for private broadcasters on its DTH platform DD Direct Plus DTH. In comparison, according to the government, the company was earning Rs 16.8 crore prior to the auction – Rs 80 lakhs per channel, compared to the Rs 2.17 crore to Rs 2.25 crore earned from the auction, with 21 successful bids for 21 vacant slots. As on date, there are 59 channels on DD Direct Plus bouquet, of which 19 are Doordarshan channels (including Lok Sabha).

Prices for DTH slots, referred to as ‘carriage Fee’ in the industry, are typically shrouded in mystery, and DTH operators often block/delay the inclusion of channels on their platform by demanding high carriage fees. An auction system, like that instituted by Prasar Bharati, brings transparency to the distribution.

The amount being paid:
– Rs. 2.25 cr- Sadhana News (Uttarakhand/Himachal), Aastha Bhajan, B4U Movies, Sanskar.
– Rs. 2.22 cr- RK News (Sadhana), Sahara Samay.
– Rs. 2.21 cr-Enter 10 music, TV 24, Day& Night News.
– Rs.2.20 cr- B4U Music, Time TV, Divya, Katiani.
– Rs. 2.19 cr-Sahara Aalmi (Urdu), Sahara Firangi.
– Rs. 2.18 cr-Zee Salaam, Zee Smile, Etc music, 9X, Zee Jagran.
– Rs. 2.17cr-Enter 10 Movies.

The TV access business in India, especially through cable operators is believed to be an opaque and corrupt business, and digitization was meant to bring transparency and accountability, especially in collection of government taxes from consumer usage. Carriage fees, though, is an issue that hasn’t been addressed by regulators yet.

While they can support more channels, access service providers keep a tight control over the channels being provided to consumers, using ‘access to consumer’ as a means of monetization, even though the consumer is already paying for the access.

In our opinion, this is an artificial restriction being put on consumer choice.