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Spectrum crunch may cost Prasar Bharati Rs.300 crore

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New Delhi: Acute shortage of DTH spectrum may account for a minimum loss of R300 crore for public broadcaster Prasar Bharati in the current fiscal.

Due to spectrum crunch and lack of Ku-band transponders (DTH spectrum) on satellites, the expansion and revenue-earning capabilities of the public broadcaster have been badly hit.As a result, it has to shelve plans to outsource the operational control of DD Direct Plus to private operators, as has been reported by FE earlier.

Also, as DD Direct Plus will not be able to increase the channel slots (from 59 to 150), it can not auction the same to earn

a minimum of R300 crore from private broadcasters who have been lining up to come on-board DD Direct platform.DD Direct Plus is the free-to-air direct-to-home service of Prasar Bharati which attracts a bulk of 350-plus private free-to-air channels on its platform for nation-wide reach.

Private channels have so far paid an average of R2.5 crore per year per channel, in e-auctions to Prasar Bharati to come on-board DD Direct Plus.

The original target of increasing the channel capacity of DD Direct Plus to 150 by early 2012 and to 200 by 2013 will not be met due to lack of transponders on satellites, sources in Prasar Bharati told FE. At present, DD Direct Plus offers 59 channels, a bulk of which are from private broadcasters who have paid R2-3 crore each to the public broadcaster after auctions for 365-day assured space and service. Doordarshan was looking to auction most of the new slots upon expansion to private broadcasters to earn a minimum of R300 crore before the start of new fiscal.Along with auctioning slots, Prasar Bharati was also set to hand over the operational control of DD Direct Plus to private DTH operators for a fixed fees. FE was the first to report this in August.

Sources said the move to shelve its plans to outsource DD Direct Plus to private operators was taken after a widespread opposition from within the organisation. But sources in Prasar Bharati deny this. “ISRO will only be able to provide additional transponders to Prasar Bharati in 2013. Therefore, we’ll have to operate with five transponders only, which means we can only increase our capacity to 75-76 channels and not 100 or 200 as planned. The plans to outsource operational control of DD Direct Plus is now virtually shelved,” a senior officialin Prasar Bharati told FE.

So far, the broadcaster has successfully auctioned and allotted 26 slots to private broadcasters on DD Direct Plus raking in R63 crore in revenue. This is more than three times the amount it used to generate before migrating to e-auction mechanism in July (charging fixed rate of R80 lakh per slot). As a result, the average revenue per slot jumped to R2.42 crore.Based on the current average slot rate and projected increase, Doordarshan would have got another R220-270 crore from auctioning new slots thereby crossing the R300 crore-mark before March 31, 2012. According to Prasar Bharati officials, the slot-auction revenue alone would have accounted for nearly one-third of the planned budget allocations for Doordarshan.

Source: The Financial Express

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