I&B Ministry

Govt bats for level playing field; withdraws permission given to Zee Media for uplinking in Ku-band

An order issued by the ministry said that due to availability of the 10 channels of ZMCL on DD Freedish, ZMCL was having a competitive advantage vis-a-vis other private broadcasters (who are not on Ku Band) and having leverage of large subscriber base of DD Freedish

Govt bats for level playing field; withdraws permission given to Zee Media for uplinking in Ku-band
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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) on Friday withdrew the permission given to Zee Media Corporation Limited (ZMCL) for simultaneous uplinking of its 10 TV Channels in Ku Band on GSAT-15 Satellite through the teleport of Dish TV India Ltd. with immediate effect.

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") were permitted to operate on C-Band from respective dates of permission given by I&B ministry.

In an order dated September 23, 2022, the ministry said that ZMCL applied for permission to uplink the above-mentioned 10 channels simultaneously in Ku Band on GSAT-15 satellite from the teleport of Dish TV India Ltd.

Justification given by ZMCL was that many operators have desired to receive channels in the Ku-Band. These operators desire to receive only one of two channels of the ZMCL in many cases, and do not own or operate a C-Band receiving dish of 4 Meters (16 feet) due to their location in crowded locales where such installations are not possible.

ZMCL further mentioned that Ku-band allows smaller dish antennas for its application, hence installation is cheaper and easy and it incurs lesser terrestrial interference.

On the request of ZMCL, the Ministry had granted permission to ZMCL on October 31, 2019, for uplinking of the channels simultaneously in Ku Band on GSAT 15 Satellite through the teleport of Dish TV.

However, subsequently, it came to the notice of the Ministry that these 10 channels of ZMCL are getting available on DD Freedish.

On examination of the issue, it is noticed that the channels were getting available on DD Freedish because of proximity and co-location of transponders of both DD Freedish and Dish TV on the same satellite i.e. GSAT15 Satellite and non-encryption of the signals by both of them.

Therefore, the Ministry vide letter dated 26/02/2020 requested ZMCL to opt for either C Band or Ku-Band for uplinking of its above-stated 10 channels from the teleport of Dish TV.

ZMCL In its reply stated that Clause 5.1 of Uplinking guidelines is not a restrictive clause which would prohibit uplinking in both the bands viz. 'Ku-Band' and 'C-Band'. In fact, the said clause actually permits simultaneous uplink in both bands. That there is no bar for simultaneous uplinking in C Band and Ku Band and did not opt for uplinking in any one of the two bands in compliance to the clause 5.1 of the uplinking guidelines.

However, due to such availability of the channels of ZMCL on DD Freedish, ZMCL was having a competitive advantage vis-a-vis other private broadcasters (who are not on Ku Band) and having leverage of large subscriber base of DD. The Ministry also received references from Prasar Bharati and many private broadcasters regarding this unfair advantage to ZMCL due to permission of simultaneous uplinking of 10 TV Channels on Ku-Band in addition to uplinking in C-Band.

Therefore, the Ministry decided to review the permission granted to ZMCL for simultaneous uplinking of the above-stated 10 channels in Ku band on GSAT-15 Satellite.

In the review, it emerged that the permission granted by the Ministry for simultaneous uplinking of the above-stated 10 channels in Ku band is not in conformity with clause 5.1 of the Policy Guidelines for Uplinking and clause 5.6 of the Policy Guidelines for Downlinking.

Clause 5.1 of the Policy Guidelines for Uplinking says, "The company can uplink either in C or Ku Band. Uplinking in C Band would be permitted both to Indian as well as foreign satellites. However, proposals envisaging use of Indian satellites will be accorded preferential treatment. On the other hand, uplinking in Ku Band would be permitted through Indian satellite only, subject to the condition that this permission is not used to run/operate DTH service without proper license, to which separate guidelines apply. Satellite to be used should have been coordinated with INSAT System."

Clause 5.6 of the Policy Guidelines for Downlinking says, "The applicant company shall provide satellite TV channel signal receipt decoders only to MSOs/ Cable Operators registered under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 or to a DTH operator registered under the DTH guidelines issued by Government of India or to an Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Service Provider duly permitted under the existing Telecom License or authorized by Department of Telecommunications or to a HITS operator duly permitted under the policy guidelines for HITS operators issued by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India to provide such service."

Accordingly, ZMCL was served a Show cause Notice dated 16/08/2022 as to why the permission of simultaneous uplinking in Ku band should not be revoked. ZMCL submitted reply to the SCN on 31/08/2022.

A court case bearing W.P(C) No. 2670/2020 was also filed by Gaurav Kochhar Vs UOI and others before High Court of Delhi relating to availability of the above 10 Private Channels of ZMCL being uplinked on Ku-Band to the subscribers of DD Freedish.

In the matter, High Court of Delhi vide its interim order dated 30/08/2022 has directed the Ministry to pass a final order in the matter after receiving the reply of the company in respect of the Show Cause Notice and file the action taken report.

ZMCL filed a written submission in response of the Show Cause Notice and inter-alia requested for a personal hearing before taking a final decision in the matter. Accordingly, the company was granted the opportunity for a personal hearing on 16/09/2022 at 04:00 PM in the chamber of JS(B-1). Four representatives of the company appeared for the personal hearing. During the hearing, the representatives of the company re-iterated its written reply.

The replies submitted by ZMCL vide letter dated 02/03/2020 and 31/08/2022 and the points raised during the personal hearing have been considered by the Ministry. In view of the violation of clause 5.1 of the Uplinking Guidelines as well as clause 5.6 of the Downlinking Guidelines and also in order to provide a level playing field to all the stakeholders in the TV Channel industry, the decision for grant of permission vide letter dated 31/10/2019 to ZMCL for simultaneous uplinking of its 10 TV Channels in Ku Band on GSAT- 15 Satellite through the teleport of Dish TV has been reviewed.